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After the painting by Lord Leigh ton, by permission of the Director 

of the National Portrait Gallery. The etching here reproduced was 

first published by Messrs ?eeley in the Portfolio. 





K.C.M.G., F.R.G.S. 

Edited, with Notes, by 

and a Preface by 



191 1. 








IDefctcatefc to 









LIFE, as we know it, had scarcely crowned the travail of creation 
and produced a man when man rose up and slew his brother. 
That first killing must have been some uncfcanly business, wiili 
a boulder clenched in an angry fist. It must have taken very 
little time to discover that other men were better slain with 
some more elongated instrument. At first the flint that flaked 
so easily into a fatal shape was bound with deers' sinews to a 
wooden shaft. Then Earth gave up her secrets at the call of 
Death, and with bronze and iron the forge of Tubal Cain's 
descendants set to work at weapons. Leaves, or talL fronds of 
water plants, were instant models for the prehistoric sword. 
The falchion that Achilles wielded flashes its primeval origin. 
The strong blade of the Roman legionary warred down the 
world with trenchant edge and thirsting point until the hordes 
out of the ancient East swept over Europe better armed. 
Against the scimitar of the Moslems, the long, straight Norman 
sword hewed out its path to Palestine and reigned, in turn, as 
Death's best sceptre from Scandinavian fiords to the Sicilian 
seas. By war man smote his way to freedom, 

Stripped aiul adust in a stubble of empire. 
Scything and binding tlie full sheaves of sovranty. 

By the sword he held hi-* blood-stained fief until the age of 
chivalry was overpast, until the mailed knight vanished at the 
first whiff of Friar Bacon's villainous saltpetre, and gun- 
powder, which choked Don Quixote's dream, produced the art 
of fence. The days had passed when, in a clear air, hand to 
hand, the lines of warriors met and grappled; when every 
wound showed gaping red, and every hand that dealt it reddened ; 
when armoured cohorts, irresistiblle, charged by sheer weight 
through legions of the lesser sort, and trampled, hacked, and 
hewed them iuto lifeleseness. Now missiles came from far 
through murky tracts of smoke-stained mist, belched from some 
iron artifice, like blasts of Tophet, and in their path was death 
that no cuirass, no carapace of armour could withstand. So the 
one excuse for a complete protection of the body vanished, and 
from the crowd of ancient armour-cracking weapons, mace, 
hammer, flail, and such like, the sword rose paramount. More 
lightly clad, the horseman could ride swifter, move his limbs 
with greater freedom. The joints in his harness expanded into 
gaps. One by one his metal shields dropped off, and, as he 

viii Preface. 

thus gradually used his armour less and less, so did he become 
more vulnerable to the skilled swordsman, and so did the point 
begin -triumphant to assert its superiority over the edge. 

One result was an immediate outpouring of volumes on the 
new science of fence from Perpignan, from Spain, from Italy, 
from Germany. Tho whole continent was agog with geometrical 
and mathematical theories, with complicated and encyclopaedic 
treatises, which overlaid the subject with so many extraneous 
trivialities that all sight was lost of the one deadly principle 
that simplicity is best, when killing is your game, and when the 
killer Ls a man of human passions, human errors, human short- 
comings. A fatal stroke is rarely made by one whose nerves 
are absolutely calm; it is never made, save in the foulest ways 
of murder, without the necessity for self-defence at the same 
moment. It is, therefore, best made as the easiest of simple and 
instinctive movements. But this was the last thing fencing 
masters realised. The discovery of the point had fairly dazzled 
them. Though for many years it did not involve anything like 
complete abandonment of the edge, yet that discovery alone 
gave the rest of Europe a temporary and marked superiority 
over England in the art of duelling, for your downright 
Englishman would at first have nothing to say to the new- 
fangled "foining" from across the Channel. A good heart and 
a strong blade was all he wanted. But time after time the 
ruffian who had learned to lunge in France was found to be 
more effective than the Briton who trusted to the edge alone. 
Slowly and cautiously the foreign fencing master was admitted ; 
for these islanders, who " were strong, but had no cunning," 
found themselves obliged to learn. At Westminster, upon a 
July 20, in the thirty-second year of his reign, Henry VIII. 
granted a definite commission to certain "Masters of the Science 
of Defence," and for this reason the Tudor rose is to-day the 
badge of English fencing teams in international tournaments, 
under the rules of the Amateur Fencing Association, whose 
patron was King Edward VII. and is now King George V. 
Under Elizabeth the " scholar " obtained his diploma of efficiency 
after a kind of examination calted "Playing his Prize," which 
consisted of bouts at certain weapons, supervised by the masters, 
and these were, no doubt, the origin of the " Prize Fights," 
which Pepys observed in the days of Charles II. ; but develop- 
ment moved very slowly still. Only by tedious degrees did the 
deadly form of fence which Agrippa invented for the weapons of 
his day spread throughout Europe, and become general, as swords- 
manship and fencing spread among all classes. Tlio rapier play 
perfected at the end of the sixteenth century kept a great deal 
of cutting with its use of the point, as the famous duel between 
Jarnac and Chataigncraic sufficiently shows ; it also kept a great 
deal of use of the left hand, cither with ;i dagger or with a 

Preface. 1X 

cloak and sometimes unarmed, for many an Elizabethan duellist 
" with one hand held cold death aside, and with the other sent 
it back to Tybalt." The reason of this was that the rapier was 
a long and heavy weapon; its real size may be gathered from 
the old rule that " with the point at your toe the cross should 
reach as high as your hip bone." This meant that a weapon 
which nearly always resulted in severe wounds when used in 
attack was not handy enough alone to provide an efficient 
defence, and the left hand, with or without a dagger, had to 
be brought into play to protect the swordsman. This at once 
involved the disadvantage that adversaries, doubly weaponed, 
must perforce stand very square to one another, and would risk 
many chances of grappling and "in-fighting," at which the 
better fencer might be worsted by a muscular opponent ; science, 
in fact, made far less difference than it does at present. A more 
accurate and more complete system became a necessity. So the 
point by degrees superseded the edge entirely. One weapon was 
found sufficient both for attack and for defence ; for the point 
kept men at their distance, and the fencer, using one hand for 
balance, did all that was possible, by standing sideways, to efface 
the surface of his body open to attack. 

It is, perhaps, significant that the era which produced the 
perfection of fencing, the crowning masterpiece of the riposte, 
was also the age when duelling with the sword went out of 
fashion in those countries where the national skill had not 
rendered it practically innocuous. The history of firearms pro- 
vides an example of a similar series of causations. When 
Gentlemen of the Guard fired first, and the officer's cane pressed 
down their musket barrels on a mark some fifty paces distant, 
the slaughter of the volley would have made modern 
humanitarians turn pale. But in these days of the- repeating 
rifle and the Mauser magazine, one army has hardly time to see 
the manly countenances of its foes throughout a whole campaign, 
and, relatively, very Kittle bad blood has been spilt when all is 
over. It has remained for the days of "scientific hygiene" to 
count more victims killed by disease than fell in action. So the 
sword was in danger of becoming a mere symbol, though always 
a brilliant symbol, for the martial poet, 

Clanging imperious 

Forth from Time's battlements 

His ancient and triumphing song. 

Perhaps this is why, both in France and England, the military 
authorities have shown a creditable anxiety to remove it from 
tlie vulgar sphere of practical utility, and the six-shooter has 
entirely replaced it in the United States, and meanwhile the 
subtle perfection of foil play steadily came more and more into 
favour. Emancipated from the bonds of too strenuous utilitarians, 
freed from the fetters of an encyclopaedic scholasticism, yet 

x Preface. 

glowing, still, with the romance of all its glorious past, the 
sublimated spirit of good swordsmanship throughout the ages 
seemed to float over the fencing-rooms of the last decade of 
the nineteenth century; for here, even in England, the discovery 
of the French duelling sword '(or epee de combat) had given 
renewed zest to practice with its elder sister, the foil. Even 
the exquisite art and laudable enthusiasm of a Camille Prevost 
could not, however, recommend to the average militant male a 
pursuit which he regarded as a mere academic elegance, with very 
little reference to the serious issues of personal combat and no 
pretence to the employment of a serviceable weapon. Englishmen 
asked for something more practical, and in epee play they have 
found it. The late W. H. C. Staveley, whose recent and 
untimely loss all English fencers have so sincerely mourned, 
was first-rate with the foil before his epee and sabre play had 
reached international form, and he was as eager to preserve 
the qualities of the foil as he was to fight the foremost with the 
sword. Capt. Hutton, too, who died within a few days of his 
younger comrade, was a president of the Amateur Fencing 
Association whose place will be difficult to fill, for he guided 
modern developments with an experience of the past that was 
well-nigh unequalled, and the swordsmanship of the last thirty 
years owes much to his presence and example. 

But though our amateur fencing championships, with foil, 
epee, and sabre, are now regularly carried out each year, it 
may be feared that the art of swordsmanship remains a mystery 
tp the larger part of the inhabitants of these isles, and that 
few of the great sporting public know the meaning of the little 
Tudor rose (commemorating Bluff King Hal, as aforesaid) 
which hangs at the watch-chain of those who have represented 
England in an International Tournament. Yet there was a 
time when Englishmen, sword in hand, could face the rest of 
Europe without fear, either in the fencing-room or on "the 
field of honour." They had at first been a long time learning 
Ibat the Continent had really got something to teach them; 
having at last learnt it, they proceeded to outdo their masters. 
But they gave up the game as soon as they dropped wearing 
swords. Practical danger appealed to them ; artistic recrea- 
tion left them cold. They had laughed duelling out of fashion, 
both with steel and pistol ; they forthwith gave up going to 
the fencing-room. Angelo's work seemed likely to be wholly 
forgotten within scarce two generations of his prime. A few 
men only Burton, Chapman, Hutton, Egerton Castle, the two 
Pollocks, perhaps a short half-dozen mnrp savod foil play from 
complete oblivion in Ixmdon. during Ihe long years of ccli}> < 
The following dialogue, of which the first publication began in 
the pages of the Field, is from the hand of Sir Richard Burton, 
that curious blend of the mystic and the athlete, of the explorer 
and the linguist, of the antiquary and the scholar. A man who 

Preface. xi 

felt as strongly as it has been ever felt the passion he calls "the 
wild and fiery joy which accompanies actual discovery," Burton 
equally delighted in the subtler expression of intellectual, tem- 
peramental, even psychical emotions; and was therefore very 
peculiarly qualified to describe "the Sentiment of the Sword." 
His sketch of " Shughtie," one of the characters in his con- 
versation, is probably intended as a portrait of the writer (or 
one side of him) by himself. Hie dialogue, which throws several 
curious sidelights on Mid-Victorian society (in velvet smoking 
caps and whiskers), is valuable not merely for its sound 
doctrines of swordsmanship, but for its revelations of his own 
character and personality. It has been edited by Mr Forbes 
Sieveking, a skilled upholder of the foil, to whom London owed, 
some dozen years ago, an exhibition of first-rate foil play in 
the Portman Rooms that was not surpassed either in excellence 
or in interest until the famous evening when the King saw Pini 
and his Italian champions vanquished in the Empress Rooms 
by Kirchhoffer, Merignac, and the flower of France. That was 
a typical encounter, for which those who had seen Camille 
Prevost's elegant classicalism on the former occasion were more 
than half prepared. The passing of the sceptre from Italy to 
France had been foreshadowed already. It may now be taken 
as an accomplished fact. 

First-rate foil play has invariably been too delicate in its 
essence,, too ideal in its aim, too unpractical in its courteous 
fragility for the majority of Englishmen. It is the foundation 
of the knowledge of all weapon play, and your true foil player 
need never be at a loss in a scrimmage, even if he bears but 
that unromantic symbol of civic respectability the silk 
umbrella. But in itself the foil has always appealed to a very 
small minority of our countrymen. The scoring was compli- 
cated, restricted, and liable to much misconception, save by the 
rare and tyrannous expert. The somewhat artificial ceremonies 
attending it had too Continental a flavour for your insular 
athlete, who liked to know both when he hit his foe and when 
he had been hit himself. And so the whirligig of time has 
brought yet other changes. Fencing has experienced a 
miraculous Renaissance in this country owing to the introduc- 
tion of the pool system and the epee dc combat, the triangularly 
fluted rapier of the French duellist, with its semicircular cup 
hilt, its light, blade, and foil handle, its grim simplicity of 
method, its virtual reproduction of the conditions of the duel, 
its strictly businesslike and obvious scoring. The first pool ever 
held here in public with this weapon was in the Steinway Hall 
in 1900. By 1903 the first English fencing team that ever crossed 
the Channel competed in Paris in the International Tourna- 
ment. Much to the surprise of their compatriots they were not 
last, for a victory over the Belgians served as an anticipatory 
atonement for lost Grand Challenge Cups at later Henleys. 

xii Preface. 

In 1906, only three years afterwards, the English team fought 
France to a dead heat in the final at Athens for the first time 
in any open international event. It is not too much to hope 
for even greater honours in the future. The popularity of the 
new sport for new it is, in its first decade etill would have 
fairly astonished Richard Burton, and, we may safely add, have 
thoroughly delighted him, for he knew all about the possibilities 
of the epee, ae did a few other Englishmen in the latter half 
of the nineteenth century ; but it never became really popular till 
after 1900, and now we hear so great an authority as J. Joseph- 
Renaud, across the Channel, saying that " foil play is dead." 
We do not believe that the foil will ever die while swordsman- 
ship remains alive ; but it is a fact that the epee has given an 
impulse to English fencing of which the foil has never in its 
whole history been capable. Non cuivis contingit adire 
Corinthum; not all may wear the Tudor rose of English swords- 
manship, but scores more than ever cared to perfect themselves 
with a foil may now learn, something of the joys of swordsman- 
ship, may feel the fine thrill of that sentiment du fer when your 
blade seems like a nerve outstretched from the eager point of 
it to your own heart and brain, when your opponent's steel 
bewrays him as it palpitates with the tremor of his struggling 
will and adverse energy. In any weather, indoors or out of 
doors, at any hour, at any age, this game of games is at your 
service. To begin it without foil play as an introduction were 
as futile as learning slides before fixed seats in rowing, but 
once the preliminaries are mastered an epee pool becomes the 
true combat of personalities, the keen revealer of temperaments, 
the merciless arbitrament of skill. It changes with every pair 
who stand ujp man to man. It can be twenty minutes of the 
hardest bodily exercise ever known, and it may be either a 
series of single matches or a combined team fight in sets of 
four or six. The days of Angelo have come back again, with 
a difference: the tragic comedians of the duel have silently 
vanished into limbo, and one of the best sports in modern 
Europe sounds in the ring of glittering steel. 

January, 1911. 


Preface vii 

Foreword by Editor ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 1 


I. Introduction ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 2 

II. Point and Edge amongst Ancients and Primitive Peoples 2 

III. History and Development of Sword ... ... ... ... 3 

IV. Early Fencing Treatises and Technicalities Simplifica- 
tion Italian School and Names of Parries ... ... G 

Natural Parries ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 9 

Lines and Attack and Defence 10 

V. How to Teach Fencing 11 


I. The Audience 14 

II. Fencing for Women ... ... ... ... ... ... 15 

III. English Dilettantism 16 

IV. Treatises The Alphabet and Language of the Sword ... 17 
V. Fencing in XVth and XVIth Centuries Early Italian, 

French, and German Writers 

VI. Spanish School 

VII. Early Neapolitan and Italian Schools 

VIII. Oiuoco Miato of Modern Italians 

IX. Bologna City and Fencing 

X. Blasco Florio on Spanish, Neapolitan, and Sicilian Schools 

XI. Ariosto and Tasso on Duels 

(French System ... 

XII. Aspects'of French Fencing 

XITI. Locke on Fencing 
Utilitarianism ... 
XIV. Bazancourt on the Strength of a Swordsman 

XV> | The Natural and Artificial Systems 

I. Bayonet Exercise 

II. Attacks'and Pari'ies, Simple' and Compound 

jy j Same Elucidated 
V. Cardinal Virtues of Sword 



yjj' | Practical Demonstration of Lesson 4" 

VIII. Axioms of the Science 51 


1. Prelude 54 

II. Method of Instruction ... 54 

III. Disadvantages and Delays of Old Systems ... ... 57 

V ") 

y > Button and Style in Fencing . . 60 

VI. Heresy 62 

VIIl' } Plastron - work 62 


I. The Assault: Its Axioms and Faculties 67 

III f Upper and Lower Lines 69 

IV. Girard Thibaust and Face Thrusts 71 

yj' J The Retreat 73 

VII. The Universal Parry Individuality in the Parry 77 

VIII. The Bipost and Remise 79 

IX. Summing-up ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 81 


I. Le Sentiment du F 82 

jJJ- J- " Giving the Sword " 83 

IV. Le Sentiment du Regard : TMbaust 8G 

V . C ombination of Both " Sentiments " 88 

VI. The Pressio , Flanconnade, Battement, and Croise ... 89 

VII. The Academic v. The Natural Fencer 89 

VIII. Grace and Inspiration 91 

IX. Origin of the Foil ; the Plastron and Mask ; Jacket, Shoe, 

and Glove ; Leather Armour 92 

X. Feints 95 


I. Frenchman v. Neapolitan 95 

II. Attacks 96 

III. A Fatal Habit Remaining on Guard Bayonet Exercise 99 

IV. The Stop Thrust and Time Thrust 100 

V. Bottes Secretes and Coup de Jarnac 101 

VI. Misjudging an Enemy Cowardice and Nervousness 104 

VII. The Unbuttoned Weapon ...107 

VIII. The Gaucher, or Left-handed Fencer 107 

IX. Self -consciousness and Savoir faire .. .. 109 



I. Prelude 110 

IT. The Relative Merits of Sword and Pistol ... ...Ill 

III. English Feeling about the Duel 

IV. Fencing and Personal Utility 117 

V. Duties of a Second ... US 

V I . Parrying with the Left Hand, and other Irregular Parries 121 

V I I Responsibilities of a Second 122 

VIII. The Corps-a-Corps Fair Play 124 

IX. Right to Rest in the Duel The " Point of Honour" .. 125 

X. A Succession of Duels 127 


I. Means of Attack and Defence Youth and Age 129 

II. Length of Arm ... 130 

III. Degrees of Proficiency in Arms 131 

IV. Neophyte's Preparation for Duel 132 

The Instinctive Position : Beauty on Guai-d . 134 

V. Phrenology and Character ... ... ... ... ... 13G 

" Defend and Threaten," i.e., Retreat and Extend Sword 138 

VI. Lunge to the Rear 139 

VII. Advice to Pupil of Moderate Skill in Arms 140 

VIII. Analysis of Process Mastering Opponent's Sword 141 

IX. The Man of Sanguine Temperament 143 

X. Where Both Combatants Equally Skilled Distrust Your 

Adversary ... ... ... ... ... ... .. 144 

The Foil that " Buttons," and the Point that Kills ... 14fi 

XI. Conclusion ... 147 




rnHE MANUSCRIPT of the following Dialogue was 
-*- entrusted to me by the late Lady Burton some time after 
Sir Richard Burton's death in 1890, together with the notes 
ajid memoranda he left for the continuation of his Book of the 
Sword. It will, I hope, be of interest as the work of one of 
the greatest travellers, finest sportsmen, and strongest personali- 
ties of the Victorian era ; but it will appeal more especially to 
lovers of the sword and foil, who have increased so vastly in 
numbers since Burton wrote. For it contains the matured 
opinions upon the art and methods of offence and defence in 
England and on the Continent of one who was throughout his 
life an ardent student of the theory, and an acknowledged 
master of the practice, of the art of swordsmanship. 

We have Burton's own statement (Life, Vol. I., p. 134) that 
he began his long practice with the sword seriously at the age 
of twelve, sometimes taking three lessons a day, and he never 
missed an opportunity of studying the fencing or fighting 
methods of whatever country he was in, savage or civilised. In 
1850, at the age of twenty-eight, he was devoting himself to 
fencing at Boulogne. " To this day," writes his widow, " the 
Burton une-deux, and notably the manchette (the upward slash 
disabling the sword arm and saving life in affairs of honour), 
are remembered; they earned him his brevet de pointe for the 
excellence of his swordsmanship, and he became a maitre 
d'armes." This diploma he placed after his name upon the title 
page of his Book of the Sword. In 1853 he published A Com- 
plete System of Bayonet Exercise, which, at first pigeonholed at 
tho War Office, was subsequently adopted in the army. 

Bui-ton's original title for his work was " The Secrets of the 
Sword," suggested by the Baron de Bazancourt's volume Les 
Secrets de VEpee, published in Paris in 1862, from which 
he quotes freely in the following pages, and so well 

2 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

known in England by Mr C. Felix Clay's fine transla- 
tion (illustrated by Mr F. H. Townsend), which has forestalled 
this title here. The one chosen in its place, " The Sentiment 
of the Sword," perhaps suggests even better to non-fencers 
Burton's intimate sympathy with and affection for the weapon 
and its correspondence with his own nature, while to swordsmen 
and fencers it brings home le sentiment flu fer invented by our 
"sweet enemy France" for that inner feeling of the foil, that 
magnetism of the blade, that sense of touch or " tact " which 
no other expression in any language so happily conveys. 

I have ventured to omit a few passages from Burton's work 
which time has rendered of less lively interest, and have allowed 
myself the liberty of a few notes where the text seemed to 
require it, or the title of an early fencing work has been given 


12, Seymour Street, W., December, 1910. 


Ne, che poco io vi dia da imputar sono, 

Che quanto io passo dur, tutto vi dono. ARIOSTO. 


IN the long world journey of the traveller, who is something 
of an explorer, there are two lights. The greater is that wild 
and fiery joy which accompanies actual discovery; the lesser 
light is the mild and tranquil enjoyment snatched from rude 
life and spent amid the radiance and fragrance of civilisation. 


One evening, many strangers being in the smoking-room, 
our talk happened to touch upon the sword. Seaton was 
certain that the English would never be a fencing nation, that 
the Pointe wae the invention of modern Continental Europe, 
that the French school is the only system worth learning, and 
so forth the usual commonplaces of swordsmen. 

I differed with him upon sundry details. It is hard to say 
what a nation cannot do ; two centuries ago England could 
teach mueic to that all-claiming German race why should she 
not teach it again? The Greeks and Romans used the point, 
although their weapons were rather knives than " long knives," 
and the Turkish yataghan, the Malay kris, the Afghan 
"charay" (1) the Kabyle flissa (2), and the Algerian dagger, 

(1) " A congener of the Egyptian flesh-knife sword " (Book of the 
Sword, page 212). 

(2) See Book of the Sword, page 164, for illustration. 

The First Evening. 

from which the Due D'Aumale borrowed the French sword- 
bayonet, are made for " thrust " as well as for "cut." We must 
not go beyond the assertion that only the exclusively pointed 
weapon, a revival of the old " stocco," that with which 
General Lamoriciere proposed to arm the French cavalry, is 
the invention of comparatively modern times. As regards the 
Italian schools, the old and the new, I supported their prowess 
in the field, and the aristocracy of the family from which they 
claim descent. 

The discussion became animated enough to impress the 
general ear, despite the protestations of the schoolman and 
the objections of the cosmopolite. The many present who had 
never touched a foil were impressed with the halo of feelings 
which I threw round my favourite pursuit. They began to 
understand that mind or brain force enters, as well as muscle, 
into the use of the sword ; that character displays itself even 
more than in the " bumps " of the phrenologists, or the lines 
of the physiognomist; and that every assault between experts, 
who despise the mere struggle of amour-propre, is a trial of 
skill and temper ; of energy and judgment, of nerve, and 
especially of what is known as " coup d'oeil " and the " tact of 
the sword." Regarding nerve, I asserted that the same quality 
which makes an exceptionally good rider, marksman, or skater, 
a cricketer, tennis, or billiard player, to name no others, is 
required for the finished swordsman. Lastly, I proved, to my 
own satisfaction at least, that, although the man who would 
be a perfect master of fence must begin in boyhood, simple 
offence is easily, and defence is even more easily, taught. I 
fear, in fact, that my form of conversation became somewhat 
tectural, professorial, and dogmatic. 


"Do you know," said the Chatelaine, " that you are revealing 
to us the Secrets of the Sword? " 

I accept the epigram, was my reply, and certainly nothing 
can better describe my intention. Amongst all weapons the 
rapier alone has its inner meaning, its arcana, its mysteries. 
See how it interprets man's ideas and obeys every turn of his 
thoughts ! At once the blade that threatens and the shield 
that guards, it is now agile, supple, and intelligent ; then slow, 
sturdy, and persevering ; here light and airy, prudent and 
subtle ; there, blind and unreflecting, angry and vindictive ; I 
am almost tempted to call it, after sailor fashion, " she." 

Unhappily its secrets are generally neglected, and even 
those who give what are called " fencing lessons," like those 
who take them, mostly fail to pass beyond the physical view. 

Our great-grandfathers wore swords by their sides, and all 
gentlemen learned to use them. Presently the pistol came into 
fashion an ugly change of dull lead for polished steel, and th<> 

The Sentiment of the Sword. 

" art of arms " fell so low that many a wealthy city in 
England had a "fencing master" who combined the noble 
functions of dancing master sometimes of dentist. The effect 
of the "muscular movement" has made the foil rise again in 
the market of popularity, but it is too often used as a mere 
single-stick might be the single-stick, like the quarter-staff, a 
weapon for Gurths and Wambas. 

" Please don't abuse the single-stick," Shughtie interrupted ; 
" it once saved my life." 

Nothing newer than to hear him speak of his adventures, as 
he was that rarity, a lion who seldom roared. The smoking- 
room at once seized the occasion for insisting that the whole 
tale be told. The words had fallen from him inadvertently ; 
he could not withdraw them, and so with a resigned air he 
began : 

" Once upon a time, as the story books say, I was travelling 
amongst the Galla (3), who at first held me in high honour ; 
few had ever seen the ' hot-mouthed weapon,' and those who 
had knew only ball, so when I made a flying shot they cried 
' Wak, wak, the man from the sea brings down the birds from 
heaven ! ' Presently the marvel waxed stale, and my savage 
friends, in this matter very like the civilised, began to treat 
me as one of themselves which means I was going very fast 
down a deep slope, with a deep drop at the end. My ' long 
knife,' as they called my broad sword, also sank in public 
esteem with its owner. One day a certain ruffler, a fellow of 
the bully type, showed his entourage how easy it was to beat 
me with spear and targe; I laughed in his face, and he pre- 
pared a trial. My Abyssinian servants were sorely frightened 
' if you fail, we're all down among the dead men.' I chose 
a stout, solid stick, and made my boaster take one the length 
of his assegai, not wishing to trust him with the spear-head. 
We stood opposite each other ; I cut ostentatiously at his face : 
he guarded with his shield, and my stick was broken, with a 
resounding thud across his well, his flank, low down. A roar 
of laughter sent him flying in a fury to snatch up his weapon ; 
I cocked my gun, and the bystanders interfered. But my name 
was made for ever and a day. So I don't abuse single-stick, 
nor do I ever shoot the ' katta,' the sandgrouee, which saved 
us during the same journey from a torturing death by show- 
ing a spring of water." (4) 

I ventured to assert it was exceptionally rare to find, as in 
this smoking-room, two out of ten who have made the sword's 
principles their study. 

(3) The Galla is a, fierce pastoral nomad tribe of Eastern inter-tropical 
Africa. &>e Life of Burton, I., page 260. The same story is told in 
Burton's Diary on page 203 of Vol. I. 

(4) This journey is described most vividly on page 215 of Burton's 
Lite, Vol. I. 

The First Evening. 

Such assertions could hardly be disputed, but the auditory, 
especially those who did not fence or intend to fence, were 
loud, and I thought invidiously loud, in their praise of " wet 
bobs and dry bobs," of out-of-door exercises and sports, 
athletics, boating, rowing, from cricket to foxhunting. 

I should be the last man in the room to decry them ; but 
do not let us be Pharisees, who can see no good beyond a 
certain pale. Athletics are the great prerogative of the North 
as are gymnastics of the South, and this ie one of the main 
reasons why the North always beats the South has always 
beaten it, from the days of Bellovesus and Brennus, to those 
of " Kaiser Weissbart." and allow me to predict always will 
beat it. 

" Unless," cried Seaton. " some avatar, some incarnation of 
Mare like Alexander or Hannibal, Caesar, or Napoleon Buona- 
parte, throw in his sword to turn the scale. But, happily, it 
would take half a millennium to breed such men." 

Out-of-door exercises give bodily strength, weight, and 
stature, endurance, nerve, and pluck; tell me how many foot 
pounds two racers can raise, and I will point out the winner in 
the long run. 

But the use of the sword is something more : look at the 
fine health and the longevity of the maitre d'arms I doubt if 
the poet or the mathematician exceed him in this matter of 
great individual importance. 

Our study also is the means adapted to an end. He who 
can handle a rapier well can learn the use of any other weapon 
in a few days. It teaches him flexibility of muscle, quickness 
of eye, judgment of distance, and the consensus of touch with 
sight, one of the principal secrets of the sword. If he practise 
consecutively, as much with the left as with the right side, it 
obviates that serious defect of training only one-half of the 
body to the detriment of the other. Do you know why men 
who lose their way in the Arabian desert, on the prairies and 
pampas of America, on the Russian steppes, or in the 
Australian bush walk round and round, describing irregular 
circles and broken ovals, till they droop and drop and die of 
fatigue, perhaps within a mile of the hidden camp? Simply 
because when the brain is morbidly fixed upon one object 
muscle asserts itself, and the stronger right runs away with 
tho weaker left. 

"I'm not quite sure," Shughtie objected, "that men do not 
sometimes wander ' widdershins ' or 'against the sun.'" 

Moreover, I continued, without noticing the remark of the 
"objector general," these are the days when the "silver 
streak," our oft-quoted " inviolate sea," must not be expected 
to ditch and moat us, especially as we seem likely to burrow 
under it in a measure which I greatly fear will turn out 

"Yes," cried Seaton, "with peace-at-any-price policy, somfc 

B 2 

The Sentiment of the Sword. 

day wo may have a hundred thousand men hold the tete-de-pont 
before our unreadiness has time to move a corps. Nothing 
proves so well the greatness of Englishmen, nationally and 
individually, as their wonderful success, despite their various 

And now, when "la force prime le droit," when Europe 
stands up like Minerva in her panoply ready for the trial by 
what sciolists call " brute strength," I would see the old 
nation, England, take a lesson from her fair and gallant 
daughter, Canada. It is really refreshing to read of four 
millions being able to arm nearly 700,000 hands. We are fast 
returning to those fine old days, still preserved in Asia and 
Africa, where every free-born man was a born man-at-arms, 
when every citizen was a soldier, and our falling back on the 
" wisdom of antiquity " in this, as in other matters, is not one 
of the least curious features of the age. I would make Pro- 
fessor Sergeant part and parcel of every school. This has been 
tried partially and has failed, because the boys take little 
interest in learning the dull course of " sitting up" and " squad 
work," which the artless tutor proposes as the art of arms; 
but when the parents shall set the example, the sons will 
follow them. 

" Ou le pere a passe, passera bien 1'enfant," but the sooner 
drill is introduced perforce into our public schools, the better. 

" The worst of fencing," said Charlie, the Oxonian, " is that 
one must begin from one's childhood, like riding; one must 
work for years to be a tolerable hand ; if one does not keep it 
up, it becomes as rusty as running or swimming." 

Parenthetically, I knew that my fresh-cheeked and stout- 
framed Oxonian had been an inveterate sportsman from his 
greenest years, and that even now many an hour during 
vacation was given to otter hunting. He could also whip a 
stream and throw a quoit admirably in fact, he had spent 
upon these and other recreations time and toil enough to make 
a complete swordsman. But he was leading up to my point, 
so I told him bluntly enough he was wrong. 

" Pardon me, I've turned over a treatise or two in the 
library, and they made me feel small ; really, it is like reading 
up geometry or alchemy, or any other secret science." 


Now we come to the gist of the matter. You are quite 
right about the treatises. They are produced mostly by or 
for men far more used to the company of Captain Sword (5) 
than that of Captain Pen. Though some masters in the olden 
day were highly educated men, and, later still, others havo 

(5) " Captain Sword and Captain Pen," a poem by Leigh Hunt, 1835. 

The First Evening. 

written comedies, the pretensions of the modern school are less 
to literature than to moral dignity. For instance : 

" Le maitre d'armes doit avoir une conduite irreprochable, 
une humeur egale, de la bonte, de 1'indulgence sans faiblesse, 
il doit surtout etre juste et impartial, c'est le moyen pour lui 
d'obtenir 1'estime publique et la confiance de scs elevcs. 

" Le professorat est un sacerdoce, et le maitre d'armes ne 
doit jamais 1'oublier. 

" Le maitre d'armes devrait etre non seulement un modele de 
l^nu, de dignite, do maintien, de politesse et de courtoisie, 
mais encore un modele d'honneur." 

This does not much help one with a foil. Again, the art of 
arms is a subject which, like chemistry, cannot bo learned from 
books ; even illustrations give only the detached stanzas of the 
poem (6). Chief of all, these are the words of the professional 
men who take a pride in making and multiplying difficulties ; 
as masters they must know everything, and as authors they 
must show what they know. With them the noble art becomes 
an abstruse science, a veritable mystery of which they are the 
Magi, the priests. It is well, indeed, when each one does 
not modify the principles of all others and propound his own 
system. Without such show of erudition they would expect to 
bo called " ignorants." 

Lastly, like the Lemons d'Armes (Paris, 1862) of the good 
Cordelois, the book too often becomes a mere puff. 

A few in England and elsewhere have tried to simplify these 
treatises, with the effect of a skeleton drill book. These also 
have unduly neglected principles, or, rather, principes, and 
the result has been a mere tax upon the memory, resembling 
those abstracts and manuals of history, all names and dates, 
which no brain at least, no average brain beyond its teens 
can remember. 

The voice of Seaton now made itself heard. 

" I agree with you here. It is my opinion that the affected 
names and the endless hair-splittings of the fencing books make 
up a mere jargon. Why talk of the hand in ' pronation ' or 
in ' supination ? Can't you say ' nails down ' or ' nails up ' ? 
We had trouble enough at school to learn the difference between 
pronus and supinus, I'm sure. Why must we be taught such 
technicalities as Avoir de la main, des doigts, des jambes, df 
la tete, de Vcpaule. chasser les mouches, passer en arriere. 
caver, faire capot, le cliquetis, eperonner (7), and scores of the 
same kind? They remind me of my crabbed Madras major, 

C6) One of the rarest books on fencing happens to be the poem La 
Xiphonomie (1821), by Lhoma.ndie, a pupil of Texier de la Boissiere, 
the- "British Museum having no copy. 

(7) Many of those terms are still current in the Salle d'Armes. Tlip 
definitions may IK- found in M. La Boossiere's Traitc de I'Arf r?e. 
Armes (pp. 18-24). 

B 3 

8 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

who knew some three hundred native names for horse furniture, 
and could turn them upon any hapless sub. he wanted to 
' spin,' or ' pluck,' as you call it here." 

" But every art and every science must have its own 
vocabulary its own slang, if you like. And why not fencing? 
I, for one, am sure that many of the hard words are of use in 
fixing the things firmly in memory. And I'm certain," said 
Shughtie, slowly and deliberately, " that strange alphabets help 
to fix strange terms in one's memory. My head could never 
hold Sanskrit, Hebrew, Arabic from one of your new-fangled, 
Romanised things all powdered into points, accents, and italics. 
Hungarian and Slav are bad enough, especially Slav ; it is 
beautiful in native costume, and uncomely and barbarous in 
Latin dress. When I want to learn a new language I use 
my eyes, my ears, and even my tongue ; I read out loud, and 
I read standing, if possible, by way of distinguishing study 
from the common way of wasting time over printed stuff. And 
the want of alphabet would add a month to my work." 

Are we not digressing a trifle? I suggested. Granted there 
must be technical words for technical things ; but every art 
has enough of them without inventing superfluities. 

What I most object to in the older and best treatises is the 
eccentric mania of increasing and multiplying passes and 
parries, attacks and replies (ripostes), the baggage of the so- 
called " romantic," the classical and professional schools of 
arms. I object, also, to the amour-propre which thinks only of 
faire ecole, of inventing its own system. L. J. Lafaugere, a 
practical foil of note, gives (Trait I des Armes, 1825) 1272 thrusts 
and combinations, which remind one of those venerables and 
reverends who calculated how many angels could stand upon 
a needle point; beyond this what can man possibly invent? 
His eccentricities in high attacks engendered by way of reaction 
the escrime terre-d-terre (8). And what I especially reproach 
these gentlemen with is their excess of method and order, 
making their books the most wearisome things after the New- 
gate Calendar. They read like a list of chess problems, 
handfuls of detached items 

" Scattered pearls, the Persians would more politely call 
thorn," remarked Shughtie. 

Placed before you without the connecting and carrying 

Let us begin at the beginning. After "engagement," or 
crossing blades, the swordsman may be attacked, or he may 
attack, in any of these four directions, technically called the 
linos of defence and offence. 

1. On the right of his sword hand beneath the hilt = the low 
line outside. 

(8) A t<rm borrowed from the Manege art: might be translated 
" ground-game fencing.." 

The First Evening. 

2. On the left of his sword hand beneath the hilt = the low 
lino inside. 

3. On the right of his sword hand above the hilt = the high 
line outside. 

4. On the left of his sword hand above the hilt = the high 
line inside. 

Evidently the sword, unless describing a circle, can protect 
only one of these lines at a time, and the other threo remain 

Each line, therefore, relies upon two parades (parries), which 
may be reduced to half, as the direction of the blade is the 
same in both ; and the only difference is in the nails being 
turned upwards or downwards. The parries were named by 
the Italian school after the Latin numbers, and we have 
adapted them from the French. These are (1) prime (or first 
position), so called because it is that naturally and neces- 
sarily taken by a man drawing his sword from the scabbard 
which hangs to the left side ; (2) seconde ; (3) tierce ; and (4) 
carte or quarte (carte dans les armes), as it is technically 

These four are the natural or elementary parries or passes; 
but many first-rate fencers use only two, tierce and carte, with 
the modifications of high and low taking the place of prime 
and seconde. Excuse me, but it is hardly possible to speak of 
the art without using these terms, yet we are perfectly aware 
how unpleasant they are to the public ear. " I expected a book 
about the sword," onoe said to mo a London publisher, " and 
now you send me a thing full of carte and tierce." Thus did 
that eminent man of type " put the cart before the horse." 

''Will you explain," asked Charlie, "if 'low carte' means 
the hand held low, or the point directed low? " 

In the schools, as you may see in the famous La Boessiere 
(plate 8), carte basse means point low and hand high. But 
there is a difference of opinion; some masters refer it to the 
hand, and others to hand and point when in the same position. 

Prime and seconde yearly become rarer; the first because of 
its many risks in case of failure, and the second because it 
causes the point to deviate absolutely from the line of direction. 
Wary swordsmen affect them only against those who " run in," 
or to force the blade which lingers too long on the lunge. 

Another simplification, probably due to the facility which it 
is the fashion of our age to cultivate, has been apparently 
borrowed from the Italian school. The old tierce, with nails 
down, and the carte, with nails up, are reserved for certain 
conventional exercises ; they embarrass the learner, and they 
waste time in execution (9). Wo now adopt the posizione media 
as a general guard, the thumb upwards, pressing upon the 

(9) There has been a tendency of late years in the modern French 
school, led by the classic Camilla Provost, to revive the use of Tierce 

10 The Sentiment s>f the Sword. 

convex side of the grip, and the little finger downwards, the 
sole requisite precaution being an additional "opposition," or, 
as some call it, " angulation " that is to say, pressure upon 
the opposing blade. This may be called the natural position 
because all the muscles are comparatively at rest ; turn the 
hand one way or the other, and you have tension or extension. 

A low and sullen murmur made itself heard ; it came from 
the direction where Seaton was sitting. 

There are four other parries and passes which are affected 
by the treatises, as late as the nineteenth century. Some of 
them are now so rarely used, even in books, that many a 
fencing master either knows them only by theo.ry, or has a, 
very hazy idea of them. You need not learn them I quote 
the names only to complete my list. These are (1) quinte, for 
which the moderns use "low carte"; (2) sixte, also called 
" carte sur les armes " ; (2) septieme, of which nothing remains 
but its classical parry, the demi-circle; and (4) octave or 
seconde, with the nails turned up, sometimes used to force in 
a weak guard. 

I can tabulate the whole eight within a minute : 

1. Prime (low line). 

4. Carte (high line). 

5. Quinte (demi-circle, high line). 
7. Septieme (low line). 


2. Seconde (low line). 

3. Tierce (high line). 
6. Sixte (high line). 
8. Octave (low line). 

This contains every guard, thrust, and parry that has ever 
been devised, or that ever will be devised by man ; you can 
add no more to it than to the forms of the syllogism, or to 
the orders of architecture. It is the less formidable, as only 
one-half is necessary to be learned, and only a quarter is 
generally used. 

Perhaps, if you will allow me to define certain other 
technical terms, thus they will more easily be grasped by 

" Disengagement," the reverse of " engagement," is with- 
drawing beyond measure (10). By measure (mesure, misura, 
das maas) we understand the distance which separates two 
adversaries. It is of three kinds : 

1. The short measure (" within measure "), when the 
" strong " (forte), or lower halves of the blades nearest the hilt. 
i ncct and cross. 

2. Normal, or middle measure, when the swords join in the 
centre of both. 

(10) Since Burton's day -I ho word "disengagement" is solely u.<*vl 
for the French degagement (Italian cavagione), which means passing 
your point under the adversary's blade from tieroe to caxto or rice 
vcrsd. Sinco his day, too, sixte has come largely into n- in phwc of 

The First Evening. 11 

3. Long measure ("out of measure"), when the "weak" 
halves (or foibles) cross each other. 

Being " above the arms" (Ic haut des armcs; II disopra delle 
armi) is when your hand and sword are more elevated than 
those of your opponent. It is necessary to remember this 
distinction, as some schools assign the victory, when both oppo- 
nents touch simultaneously, to the "higher line" of thrust. 

By thus mastering first principles, the most complicated 
treatises will readily be understood, and the theory of managing 
the sword becomes self-evident. My royal road to learning, in 
fact, is the path of common sense. You are spared the list of 
subjects to which this rule may be applied. 

Until late years, we prepared ourselves for the business and 
labours of life by giving, say, five hours a .day, between the 
ages of eight and eighteen an existence of ten years, and ten 
such years ! to reading not speaking, to understanding uot 
mastering, a few books in Latin and Greek 

" Please leave Greek and Latin alone," was heard faintly, 
and as if from afar. 

But swimming, which might save a life, was unknown even 
to many sailors. Fencing, one of the most beneficial exercises *) 
to brain as well as muscle, the power of defence which may/ 
preserve us from the insults of the bully, and the dangerous 
attacks of the duellist in fact, the large class which the 
French sum up as les impertinents, les brouilleurs, les querellairx 
et les mechants, was considered an " accomplishment" like that 
piano so fatal to the feminine mind. 

This was the opposite extreme, quite as uncommendable 
as that of Duguesclin, who would never learn to write ; or of 
the Spartan-English mother of our day who declared thaj; no 
son of hers should ever know how to sign his name. In 
India not a few officers have actually gone into action without 
even wearing their swoids. Who can feel for them if they 
come to grief? 

See, also, until the reign of Napoleon III. (who, as the 
courteous Scotch earl observed to him, made the English a 
military nation), how much we suffered in person and reputa- 
tion under the effeminacy arising from our neglect of manly 
weapons. But I need not press this point. 

" Hear ! Hear ! " said the smoking-room, with quiet 


" You must not let your listeners suppose," remarked Lord B., 
" that you would make arms the business of every man's life." 

Of course not, unless they are to be soldiers; we may leave 
that to their intelligence. A pleasant and useful exercise should 
not be turned into an absorbing pursuit. Some will be amateur 
fencing masters, like myself ; others will take up a foil 
gymnastically, or to spend a pleasant hour amongst friends. 

12 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

But I must again notice Charlie's remark that fencing, like 
riding, must be begun when the boy is breeched. This is a 
long subject 

" Which will lead ue into the small hours," quoth Shughtie 
with intention. 

" Bear with me till you finish your last pipe a ponderous 
meerschaum, by the by perfectly bien culottee. The average 
intellect, we may say, learns most during its first ten years, 
and after fifty it generally fails to assimilate a new idea. 
What the usual run of mankind want to master quickly, and 
thoroughly to retain, must, I own, be studied in youth ; but 
there are many exceptions men with all the qualifications neces- 
sary to success save one, and that is opportunity. I remember 
two instances in particular. A. had passed thirty before touch- 
ing a foil ; at thirty-five he was a first-rate fencer. B. was a 
" gunner," who had never mounted anything but a donkey, 
and that in his Ramsgate days. He slipped over the horse^s 
head at his first leap, his second trial threw him upon the 
pommel, and the third found him in the saddle. I did not 
witness the process, but I did see him win certain welter 
stakes, when he rode like a professional. 

Then, again, there are degrees and degrees. The collegian, 
who wants only to understand the Pentateuch, does not read 
after the fashion of his neighbour who intends to become a 
Hebrew professor. If men refused to ride unless they could 
rival Lords Waterford and Cardigan, they would be doomed 
never to sit on pigskins. Fencers like the inimitable Cheva- 
lier de Saint-Georges (11), of Guadaloupe, called the phenix des 
armes of the last, and Lord Henry Seymour in the present 
century not to mention those now living spent long years in 
physical toil, in deep meditation, and in pure devotion to their 
art. But of what use would be such excellences hors ligne to 
anyone in this room? Rather a source of trouble than of 
pleasure and profit. I knew a Brazilian who laid out all 
his money in buying a diamond fabulous as to number of 
carats, and who was nearlly s'tarved because he could not 
sell it. 

" You have forgotten to tell us," urged Shughtie, " that 
your inimitable Saint-Georges was twice buttoned and soundly 
beaten, once in London by an Englishman, Mr Goddart (in 
foreign books called ' Godart '), and again by an Italian, the 
celebrated Giuseppe Gianfaldoni, of Leghorn. The famous 
Creole was travelling from France to Italy, and at an academy 

(11) A biographical sketch of Chevalier Saint-Georges, with his 
portrait, is given in Angelo'e Treatise on the Ability and Advantages 
of Fencing (Fol. 1817, London) and a "Notice Historique" by M. La 
Boessiere in his TraiU de I'Art des Armes (1818, pp. xvi.-xxii.), Saint 
Georges having been a pupil of the elder La Boessiere. 

The First Evening. 13 

lie received two buttons to one. An account of the rencontre 
\vtis published at Leghorn by the victor's brother in 1825." 
I owned not to have heard of it before. 

" Then we are to understand you," asked Claude, " that it 
is as easy to learn fencing as riding?" 

The Cantab was thoroughly at home on horseback, and he had 
that slightly parenthetical form of leg which betrays infantine 
acquaintance with the eaddle; indeed, the length of body and 
the shortness of the extremities had suggested to his friends 
the sobriquet " Jock." 

I should say fencing was as easy as riding for most men, 
whose sight is good and whose nerves can be depended upon. 
Of course, we must not push the comparison between fencing 
and riding too far. 

The first point to try with the pupil is, to flash the sword 
before his eyes. If he winks nervously, and if no practice will 
cure him of winking, he will never be a perfect swordsman or 
a first-rate shot. 

"I'm certain of that," interrupted Shughtie. "In Upper 
India a Sikh will swing his open hand across a stranger's face 
without touching it, and cry ' You are a soldier ! ' if the eyes 
do not blink ; if they do, ' Chi ! you are a peasant,' or, worse 
still, a ' coolie.' " 

What I mean is that the winker can never depend upon a 
simple parade and riposte, upon that " tic-tac," which is the 
height of good, clean fencing. But an old master will teach 
him to supplement his weak point as the stammer doctor walks 
his patient round the difficulty, and he may even be able to 
get beyond mediocrity no easy task. 

" My cigar's finished," said 1 , Scaton, with intention, but no malice. 
My friend had begun riding and fencing early in life ; he 
was short of stature and long of back, his nose was prominent, 
and his hair, moustache, and regulation whiskers were, his 
friends said, auburn, his unfriends fiery. Such sanguine 
temperaments usually have strong opinions, and their strongest 
are about themselves. 

My lecture is over. Briefly, in six weeks men with " good 
dispositions " can do something ; with a year's work they ought 
to make palpable and real progress in the noble art of arms. 
But they too often go to a mere sciolist of tierce and carte, or 
to the dancing-master; fencing-master (12). For the scri 
studiorutn the coach is all in all, and I can prove it. 

" Advice to people about to marry ! " murmured Shughtie. 

(12) There is early literary authority for this combination : Thoinot 
Arbeau's (Tabourot's) Orchesographie, published 1 in 1595, is not only 
the earliest printed " Dancing-Master," but also comprised " methode 
et theorio en forme de discours et tablatures pour apprendre a ... 
tirer des armes et escrimer "but this title-page promise only realises 
a sword-dance performance I 

14 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

On seeing him for the first time a stranger would be apt to 
exclaim, " That's a hard-looking man ! " and, after hearing 
where he had been and what he had done, the stranger would 
be apt to add, " He's just the man to do it." Hard, indeed, 
was the character of Shughtie's weather-beaten features hard 
as his heart was soft. High cheek bones, grey eyes, set deep in 
cave-like sockets, shining forth a fierce light, with prominent 
eyebrows jutting over them like a pent-house; forehead low 
and slightly retreating, nose thick and anything but classical, 
a beard falling to the waist, and grizzly, short-cropped hair 
which, they say, prevented his becoming bald ; an upper lip 
clothed with a large moustache, stiff but not bristly that shows 
the rough " son of Neptune " yet hardly large enough to hide 
the setting of the lips, and jaws vast and square, as if settled 
down into a somewhat humorous war with the world, -it the 
same time showing none of the futile pugnacity of the Celt. 
Such was the countenance. He was a tallish man, whose vast 
breadth of chest and shoulders made him appear below middle 
size. The tout ensemble of face and figure wae intended, said 
the jealous, for a born pugilist. Such men, who voluntarily 
assume the bearskin, are apt to growl, and sometimes to barb 
a growl with a venerable quotation from Mr Punch. (13) 

" Perhaps, gentlemen," said Lord B., with even more than 
usual kindness, " to-morrow evening Capt. Burton will give us 
a sketch of his curriculum?" 

With all the pleasure in life ! But I would warn you that it 
will bo as an improvisatore, not as a professor. And now good- 
night. Seaton, have you brought your plastron? (14) Shughtie, 
do not mistake in your dreams that other valley for the valley 
of the Nile ! And under cover of these feeble shots I effected 
my escape. 


I HAD spent part of the morning, in the library, where a 
few treatises, old and new, had refreshed my memory in 
matters that had faded from it; yet I felt somewhat nervous 
as the smoking hour drew near, like a lecturer who had not 
thoroughly prepared his lecture, a professor unprovided with 
all his notes. As it was therefore understood that my intro- 
duction would not only deal with general principles, but also 
be somewhat historical, the Marchioness and her two daughters 
kindly declared their intention of joining us. 

(13) I think I?ui1on he-re sketches his own portrait in Shu-htk> : com- 
pare it with the other painted by Lsdy Burton pages 166-7 of her 
" Mfe." 

(14^ The plastron is the fencing muster's thickly paddcxl .shield or 
guard 1 worn on the breast to receive the pupil's thrusts. 

The Second Evening. 15 

The only face which changed expression at the announcement 
wa^ Shughtie's ; his code did not admit of shag and cavendish, 
or even long meerschaums or short briar-roots, in the indoor 
society of fair dames, and his tastes were too far gone for 
such babe's diet as Syrian or Turkish, Havannahs and Manillas. 
The gallant Seaton was charmed by the presence of his future 
pupils, and so, I may add, were all the rest of us. The Mar- 
chioness has often been mistaken for the elder sister of her 
daughters, and Ladies Margaret and Mary would certainly 
have been called Minna and Brenda in the Shetlands. Minna 
showed traces of Irish or rather Celtic blood in the silky black 
hair, the dark-fringed grey eye, and the tall bending figure. 
This is nowhere more conspicuous than on the northern coast of 
Tenerife, at lovely Orotava, where so many Irish Catholics 
settled during the old persecuting days. Brenda, with a wealth 
of dull gold locks and a complexion delicate as an infant's, 
was always called "Anglo-Saxon," which, in the language of 
experts, means Anglo-Scandinavian as opposed to Anglo-Celtic. 

It is not so easy to settle down into places when masculine 
brusquerie is tempered by softer material. A large armchair, 
a " Sleepy Hollow," extra sleepy, was playfully proposed as 
my cathedra, but firmly and uncompromisingly rejected ; the 
hardest cane chair is likest the saddle, and the saddle is the 
properest seat for man. At length cigars and cigarettes were 
lighted, the trays stood upon the side-table, the doors were 
closed, and a solemn silence invited I will not say encouraged 
me to begin. You will have before heard the " Voice of 
Silence sounding from her throne," and you know that Silence 
in prose as in poetry is, strange to say, seldom silent. 


My ladies, my lords and gentlemen 

" Before you proceed with the proem," said the Marchioness, 
" perhaps you will kindly let me know what you think of 
fencing for women." 

The timely interruption restored my composure asi the first 
round of applause makes the young lecturer feel free and 
easy. Seaton, I fancy, smelt battle from afar ; he raised his 
nose defiantly; the erectness of his spine added a quarter cubit 
to his stature, and he flapped, so to speak, his wings. 

Without noticing the moral effect in drawing out character 
and in confirming courage, or the diversion, excitement, and 
noble emulation of the exercise, I believe fencing, which of 
course includes extension movements, to be the very best plastic 
exercise in the world in fact, the piince of calisthenics for 
acquiring grace, ease, and the full use of the limbs. It would 
take half the evening to recount and account for its good effects 
in training, strengthening, and developing the muscles, in 

16 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

setting up the figure, in opening the chest, and in counter- 
acting the habits learned in the lesson room, so -I will mention 
only one. It makes the gait easy and the carriage graceful 
as that of the Eastern woman whose youth passes in poising 
the water jar. Do not we say in England, " Straight as a 
dairymaid, or a Fulham strawberry girl " ? 

It gives abundant exercise within a short time, no small 
recommendation during " the season," when we have so little 
to do and yet so little time to do it in. Really, an hour a day 
may easily be borrowed from the ride or the walk, and the 
good results will appear in sound sleep, untroubled by dreams. 

"I think we have read something about that already," 
Shughtie observed with significance; "besides, dancing, how- 
ever pleasant, useful, and hygienic, does not develop the arms 
and upper muscles. In the ladies' fencing room, however, the 
master requires peculiar qualifications. He must make the 
exercise amusing as well as profitable; he should inspire his 
pupils with the wholesome ambition of becoming accomplished 
fencers, which, of course, they will not be." 

"How unkind!" said Lady Margaret. "And why not? I 
have read of a certain Donna Maria whose recreant lover fled 
from love and Lisbon to Goa ; she followed him and challenged 
him with sword and dagger, but ho preferred to marry her." 

Donna Marias are rare, and on the whole happily so. Your 
main disqualification is the happy want of weight of muscular 
strength. The essential differences of the sexes are in bodily 
force and in the quality which phrenologists call " destructive- 
ness," the source of power. Women write charming poems and 
novels, but which of them ever succeeded in satire or in 


It is the custom to represent fencing as an affair of skill, 
a mere turn of the wrist. Nothing can be more erroneous. 
Moreover, I have never found a woman willing to go through 
the preparatory work, however trifling it is m my system. 
All want to fence loose, even before they know the routine of 
the room, or even tierce from carte. 

"Is not that part of the national character?" Lady B. 

I should say so. The Englishman, who as a rule prepares for 
the business of life with a patience of methodical training 
certain of .success, is whimsical to a degree about his " accom- 
plishments." In this he contrasts strongly with Continentals. 
The foreigner will spend a year obediently, not to say tamely, 
in mastering the musical scale. After a month the Briton 
in-ists upon learning a bravura song. Then in painting we 
insulars begin landscape or portraits before we know how to 
mix the colours. It is the same with sculpture, with modelling, 

The Second Evening. 17 

and with other branches of what are called " the fine arts." 
This results from art being to us, I may say with Rcnan, to 
Protestantism in general, a pastime, not a study, a devotion, a 
religion. In the United States, where English feeling is of a 
more luxuriant, not to say ranker, growth than in the 
climato of our moderate land, and where society is English 
with the weight taken off it, I have heard an eminent statesman 
(the late Mr Seward) congratulate himself that his fellow 
countrymen did not waste their time upon " daubing " and 
" fiddling," as he called painting and music. 

"I'm certain we have here a partial truth," said Shughtie. 
" Dilettantism and amateurship are the banes of what you are 
pleased to call, in outrage of all respectable authority, the 
Anglo-Scandinavian and Anglo-Celt. He cribs a few hours 
from business, he reads a few books on architecture or antiqui- 
ties, and .straightway he becomes an architectural or an 
antiquarian authority. He doesn't show to advantage amongst 
men who've begun the study in their boyhood, and who've 
possibly inherited it from father and grandfather ; he'd stand 
out far better if men looked at his ledger or his cash book. 
Dilettantism is very well in its way as that great political 
compromise ' half a loaf,' but it will boast itself to be the 
whole. I for one, whenever they tell me that Mr So-and-so 
writes poetry during his leisure hours, always feel antipathetic 
to Mr So-and-so, and as for reading his poems ' the 
sentence ended in a shudder. 

" Shall we come to the point? " asked Lord B. 


I do not propose to enter upon a course of fencing. You 
will find that in the thousand-and-one treatises of which we 
spoke last night. Let me particularly recommend in the French 
school those of Professors La Boessiere (15), and especially of 
MM. Gomard (16) and Grisier (17), the most noted plastrons of 
their day, who fitly represent the first third of this century. 
In English read good old Angelo and for modern Italian 
Marchionni (18). Of course, I protest against their excess and 

(15) Boessiere (M. La): Traite de I' Art dcs Amies a I'usage ties 
1'rofcssfws ft dcs Amateurs. 8. 1818. Paris. (Twenty plates.) 

(16) Posse'llier, A. .T. J. (dit Gomard) : La fheorie de I Esciime, 
ensei'/nee par tine mr'tliode simple, basce sur V observation de, la 
nature, &c. Paris. 1845. Twenty plates. (With an historical intro- 

(7) Angnstin Grisier : Les Armes ct Ic Duel. Paris. 1863. With 
a preface by Ak>x. Dumas. Drawings by E. de Beaumont, and portrait 
of author by E. Lessalle. (1st fid. 1847.) 

(18) Alberto Marchionni : Tratlato di Sdicrma snpra il nuovo 
sistema di giuoco misto di snfo/r? italiana e francese. 8. 1847. 
Fircnzt,. (Lithographs and woodcuts.) 

18 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

wantonness of rules, their waste of precepts, their barbarous 
luxuriance of feints and thrusts, of parades and riposts, of 
counter riposts and combinations in fact, against all thu 
"stuffing" of their schools, or rather of their school books. 

Wo all know that a very few pages on botany, for instance, 
extracted! from a wearying amount of mathematical definition 
and barbarous nomenclature, will supply the beginner with 
certain sound principles. He bears these in memory, and thus 
during his daily walks ho builds slowly but surely upon solid 
foundations; he assimilates his materials by gradual mental 
digestion, and almost unconsciously after a few years he becomes 
botanist enough for all practical purposes. The same powers 
will make him a geologist, a meteorologist, or anything else. 

" So far so good," said Seaton. " We all know how difficult 
it is to handle a lance ; well, in India I learnt it easily enough 
by never riding out without a boar spear and by ' prodding ' 
at everything in the way." 

It is the same with the sword, and I differ completely from 
those who attach great importance to variety and complica- 
tion of play. The latter is a positive evil, because it distracts 
the thoughts, and all must own that, however useful in the room, 
it is absolutely valueless in the field. Hence we have sets of 
feints for the plastron and not for the assault, and movements 
for the assault, not for the combat. And what more common 
than to read : " Les coups designes ci-dessus peuvent se tenter 
une ou deux fois dans au assaut, mais jamais en duel, car ils 
prescntent de grands dangers." (19) 

The excellence of a fencer consists in a just appreciation of 
his own powers and those of his adversary, in readiness of 
judgment, in quickness of hand, wrist, and forearm ; in stability 
and regularity of position, and in the 1 a propos or propriety 
of his movements, whether attacking, parrying, or riposting. 

The alphabet of the sword, allow me the borrowed expression, 
is absolute and invariable as that of language. For letters 
wo have certain calculated positions resulting from the natural 
equilibrium of our bodies ; for words, a few simple movements 
which are instinctive to all, such as contracting and extending 
the arm ; for phrases, easy combinations of the two former. 
This language has its questions and answers, and with know- 
lodge of the vocabulary we shall find it highly expressive. I 
need not enlarge upon this; my intelligent audience know 
enough to carry out the idea What I shall attempt is to show 
how mind should agitate matter, without which all fencers 
would be as dull and regular as the finest piece of machinery 
ever invented. 

This, then, will be my first object, to prove how simple and 

(19) This is one of the practical differences between foil play and the 
6p6e de combat. 

The Second Evening. 19 

easy it is to acquire a certain mastery of arms, provided that 
the teacher adopts a right system. You will remember, please, 
that this is a conversation, not a lecture ; you will kindly 
interrupt me when you like, and the oftener the better. 

A " h'm " of doubtful import came, simultaneously from the 
direction where Seaton and Shughtie were sitting and smoking, 
the one a Manilla, the other a Havannah. 

T resumed : Let me begin with a few words upon the origin 
of fencing proper. I shall not give you that inevitable " his- 
torical sketch " which is the despair of travellers and travel 
readers, but only enough to explain how the several great 
schools arose. Draper (History of (Civilisation) and other 
Learned or ingenious writers have shown how printing by 
movable metallic types led to improved navigation with compass 
and astrolabe; how navigation directed the discovery, or rather 
the rediscovery, of the New World, so called because it isi older 
than the Old World : and how this material enlargement of 
boundary in the universe gave a stimulus which culminated in 
changes of religion and politics affecting, and long to affect, 
the whole of northern Europe. These are serious reflections 
upon such a subject as fencing ; but you know as well as I do 
that the smallest events are connected with the greatest by a 
subtle tie, none the less real because it cannot readily be 


The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, that Quaternery epoch 
of the human mind which doubled for us the material size of 
the universe, and which modified the habitable region into its 
modern and actual shapB and form, bore such men as Shake- 
speare, Camoens, and Cervantes ; Michael Angelo, Bacon, and 
Montaigne ; Luther and the Reformation ; Loyola and the 
Jesuits. It brought into England a host of minor novelties 
besides, such as potatoes, turkeys, and beer ; and with these 
blessings came the Art of Arms that is, the point, which led 
to the Bayonet of Bayonne. 

As usual in those days, the invention was the gift of the 
Latin race. The Spaniard Pons is a mysterious figure; not so 
the learned Achille Marozzo of Bologna, who wrote his famous 
treatise De I'Arte de VArmi in 1517, erroneously post-dated to 
A.D. 1536, and he continued to re-edit it for nearly half a 
century (1568). (20) 

The rapier of those times was by no means the light and 
handy weapon that it is now, nor had its peculiar modifica- 
tion, the foil, been called into being. The favourite sword 

(20) Bin-ton requires a little correction. The title of the first edition 
was not I'Arte de VArmi, hut this was the author's description of him- 
self, Maestro generate de Tarte de Tarmi. The title being Opera nova 
chiamata duello, o vero fiore dell' armi, &c. 

20 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

was shaped like one of those Andrea Fevraras which are 
hung in the hall. Its straight, bi-concave blade had a central 
groove, the " incavatura," which the Neapolitans call "scann- 
ellatura," inscribed with the maker's name. It was of exagge- 
rated weight, length, and breadth, probably to allow for 
wastage in grinding and re-grinding; the beautifully chiselled 
shell (or guard) was a little shield, and, though the sharp point 
was there, the double edge was still much used. Finally, as 
parrying had not become an art, the sword was supplemented 
by the dagger, by different forms of shields, or simply by a 
cloth wound round the left arm. You have read Walter Scott 
and you remember the use of the targe. 

What Achille Marozzo really did during his, career of half 
a century was to show that the spada sola might be used, 
and that the dagger in the left hand would serve as a shield. 
He had no guard properly so called, but in chapter 100 he 
gives the lunge, curious to say, with face averted. Agrippa 
(1568) (21) defined the lunge, and invented the four guards 
" prime, seconde, tierce, and carte." 

Grassi (1570) (22) cunningly devised the " four lines "high, 
low, outer, and inner. Salvator Fabris (1606) (23) named and 
figured the modern " guards " ; but he also used the term for 
offensive movements (the lunge) as well as for defensive or the 
engaging guard proper. To Giganti (1608) (24) we owe the 
counter-parades, the flanconnade, and the tagliata, coupe, or 
" cut over " the blade. 

Thirty-seven years after Achille Marozzo the Sieur Henri de 
Sainct-Didier (25) modified the work of Grassi and dedicated 
to Charles IX. his Traicte Contenant les Secrets du Premier 
Livre sur I'EspSe Seule. He was followed by another French- 
man, Liancour (26), who began as fencing master in 1680, and 

(21) Camillo Agrippa (Milanese) : T'ratlato di Scicntia d'Arme. con 
i'n <H<iloo di filosofia. 4. 1553. Koma .2nd edition., 1568. (Portrait 
of author and; fifty-five copper-plates in text.) 

(22) Oiaoomo di Grassi (d<a Modena) : Jlagione di adoprar sicuramcnte 
I'Arme si da offesa come da difesa. 4. 1570. Venetia. Translated 
into English by ,T. G., 1594. 

(23) Salvator Fa-bris : Scienza e Pratica d'Arme. Fol. 1606. Copen- 
hagen. (Portraits of Christian IV. of Denmark and the author, and 
190 eopper-plat<>s in text.) 

(24) Giganti, Nicoletto (Venctiano) : Scola overo tcatrn ncl c/itaj ?ono 
rappresentate diverse maniere e modo di parere e dH ferire di spada 
sola, e di Spada e pugnale. Obi. 4. 1606. Venetia. (Portrait a,nd 
forty-two copper plates.) 2nd edition. 1608. 

(25) Sainct-Didier, Henry de (Gentilhomme Provencal) : Traite, &c. 
4. 1573. (Portraits of author and Charles IX. and sixty-four wood- 

(26) Werne&son de Liancour : Le maislre d'Armes, ou I'exercice d> 
respite settfe dans so. perfection. Obi. 4. 1686. Paris. (Portrait of 
author and fourteen copper-plates by Perelle.) 

The Second Evening. 21 

died in 1732 ; and by a host of others, who formed the French 
School. This system finally abandoned the rude and homely 
cut for the refined and fatal thrust, which presently found its 
way all over the civilised world. 

The earliest regular and original treatise in German known 
to me is Ein neue Kiinstlich Fechtbuch in Happier, &c., by 
Michael Hundt, the " Freyfechter " of Zeitz (1611) (27) 

England seems to have learnt the art abroad until 1755, when 
the Livornese, D'Angelo (28), generally called Angelo, opened 
his salle in IxDndon. 


It is curious to follow step by step the mighty changes which 
took place in the early days of swordsmanship proper, what 
some call the fatiguing development of the science of arms. 
Not a few writers have assumed that our modern system began 
with extreme simplicity ; that it was an infant which had every- 
thing to learn, all things to discover, whilst others opine that 
our schools, after developing into complexity, are now return- 
ing to their older form. The contrary is a matter of history. 
My reading convinces me, as I should have expected, that in 
this, as in other arts, simplicity is the reduction of a mass of 
complications; we begin with combinations and details which 
we end by throwing away. Let me quote a familiar instance. 
The " petard " which hoisted its own engineer was a costly, 
clumsy, and artificial bit of machinery. Now we hang a bag 
of powder to a gimlet and we blow down the gates of Ghazni 
without affording sport to the spectators. 

I cannot do justice to my subject without a few words about 
the schools. Of the first or Spanish we know little except that 
it begat the Italian (29). This- venerable institution is not, as 

(27) This was a quarto published at Leipzig, but it had been pre- 
ceded long before in Germany by the earliest treatises on fencing. 
TaJIhoffer's Fechtbuch aus dcm Jahre, 1467, Gerichtliche und anderc 
Zweikample darstellend. Edited: by G. Hergsell (Prag. 1887). With 
268 plates. Fechtbuch aus dcm Jahre, 1459, from the Anibraser Codex, 
with 116 plates; and Fechtbuch aus dcm Jahre. 1443, from the Gothaer 
Codex, with 160 plates, were published in 1889 by the same editor. 
Other very early German works are Andrea Paurnl'eimlt's (Freyfeclilcr 
zu Wien). Ergrundung ritterlicher Kunst der L'ccJitercy (1516, Wien), 
treating of the two-handed sword, and translated into French in 1538 
under the title of Noble Science des Joueurs d'Espee; and Hans Leb- 
kommer's (i.e., Leckiichner's) work Der alien Fechter griindliche 
Kunst (1531), with engravings by Hans Brosamer, after the drawings 
of Albert Diirer; and Joachim Meyer's (Freyfechter zu Strasburg) 
Griitidliche Beschreibung der Freyen, &c., Knnst dcs Fechtcns (4. 
1570. Strasburg), introducing the rapier, with numerous woodcuts. 

(28) Angelo's L'Ecole des Armes was first published in London in 
1763, with forty-seven copper-plates. 

(29) Burton would scarcely have written thus after reading Mr 

Castle's Schools and Masters o! Fence, wherein the Spanish 

22 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

some say, rapidly disappearing, its connection with the past 
being gradually but surely severed, and Spain still preserves not 
a few traces of pristine rusticity. You will appreciate them by 
a glance at the older treatises (30), where the field is covered 
with mathematical diagrams, with lines and with tangents, 
chords and circles, and segments of circles, as if all the 
problems of Euclid had been thrown at your feet. Similarly, 
tho maps of that age are webbed with rhumbs (31) like spider's 
toils. Here, then, we trace the origin of those peculiar gainings 
of ground with the left foot foremost, those stoppings aside and 
oblique springs, those vaultings and voltes, that stooping with 
or without the support of the unarmed hand, and that slipping 
down which may still be seen practised by first-rate Neapolitan 
fencers, General Bosco, for instance. 


The earliest form which all systems, but especially the 
Hispano-Italian, preferred, was the complication of espada 
y daga sword and dagger. This two-handed exercise long 
haunted the fencing-rooms, and greatly modified their practice. 
The stiletto served for offence as well as for defence; it was 
made to parry in certain lines and to deliver, not a riposte, but 
an attack uipon an attack. Thus it was a prime object to " lock 
the swords" and to clash the hilts (incocciatura), thus making 
way for a hand-to-hand thrust with the shorter weapon. The 
remains still linger in the Italian position of guard when the 
dagger is absent; the left hand is held horizontally extended 
across the middle of the chest, not in the airy curve of the 
French school, and it is evidently intended to take part in the 
parade. The advantage is that by throwing it back a greater 
impetus is secured for the lunge ; on the other hand, it is apt 
to bring the left shoulder forward, causing increased exposure 
when standing on guard. In practising, and more especially in 
serious rencontres, at Naples, the seconds always determine how 
far the left hand may be used ; for instance, whether it must 
be confined to sweeping away the thrust, or if it should be 

school occupies sixteen pages; but Mr Castle's opinion of it as having 
no permanent influence upon the art of fencing does not differ sub- 
stantially from Burton's. The Geometrical School of Fence, greatly 
as it affected and exercised our Elizabethan ancestors, has now com- 
pletely passed into oblivion, except as a matter of history and except 
in so far as it may survive in Spain or Italy, as suggested by Burton. 

(30) Such as those of Carranza, Don Luis Pacheco de Narvaez (con- 
tiiuially alluded to by Ben Jonson), and, last and greatest in its futile 
magnificence, MIT .Icadi-mie de I Epi-c of (Ji.rard Tli.ibaiist, based upon 
its mysterious circle. The link between the last named, and the 
pNwwit work is that Thibaust first speaks of " le sentinx-rit dr rcsjioc." 

(31) "Rhumbs" or "rhombs" were the lines of navigation drawn 
on maps and charts by early geographers. 

The Second Evening. 23 

allowed to grasp and retain the blade. Hence it often in- 
voluntarily led to unfair play ; a hand accustomed to seize the 
sword not '.infrequently did so instinctively, with consequences 
regretted till the end of life. 

In the Neapolitan guard the heels are lately, at least, in the 
position of the French, which usually measures two to two and 
a half of the fencer's foot-lengths. The right arm is outstretched 
nearly to the full extent, leaving less opening than the elbow 
bent at the saignee, and the domed shell of the rapier, often 
4in. in diameter, and derisively called a plat d barbe by the 
satirical rivals, acts like the urnbo (boss) of the Gulf Arab's 
shield, and adda to the difficulty of attacking. The point faces 
the opponent's breast, not his eye, the rule of the French school. 
As the extended area is much more easily fatigued, the cross- 
bars connected with the haft and the shell give a firm grip by 
admitting the two first fingers, and, finally, for additional 
support, a silk kerchief or a bandage binds the other digits 
and the wrist to the handle. 

The French have never inclined to this system. They com- 
plain that it is barbarous and ungraceful. They declare, with 
truth, that the kezchief and the crossbar prevent all delicacy of 
digitation, the reversement of the hand and the suppleness of 
the wrist ; that the rigidity of the grasp reduces the movements 
to a few rigid extensions and contractions despised by the 
Northerners; and they highly disapprove of the asides, the 
slippings down, the effacernents, and other irregularities which 
have survived the old mathematical school in fact, they look 
upon them as something uncanny, unfair, almost disloyal. 

The Italians reply to these objections that the prime object 
of fencing is, as Moliere expresses it, " Toucher et ne pas 1'etre " 
the first and best definition of the science that can be given. 
They uphold the superiority of their style by proving its abso- 
lute practical utility. This is part of the national character, 
which is never recognised by passing strangers. The Italian 
is a Janue, the model of a two-sided race. The face which first 
strikes you expresses the romantic and poetical, the gushing and 
the sentimental, almost the childish ; behind it and far below it 
there is another countenance, whose characteristics are the 
baldest realism, the hardest matter of fact. The iron purpose 
which runs through Dante's " Comedy " why that absurdity 
the " Divine " ? distinguishes it from the epic poems of the 
world. Compare it, for instance, with Paradise Lost. 

And the Italians prove their point, and explain the pique 
vhich drives Frenchmen to speak of Ics ancicns errements de 
'ecole Italienne in fact, to abuse the mother system. During 
ihe first quarter of the present century, especially in the days 
>f Murat, when duels with the small sword were weekly occur- 
ences in Southern Italy, the French rarely recorded a victorj. 
/t is true that their adversaries gave themselves the most perfect 

24 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

training. They found in the open air a very necessary change ; 
after the comparative darkness of the Salle d'Armes, the 
distance almost always appears less than it really is, and thus 
an inferior fencer, aware of the difference of measure, may get 
the better of a better man. Instead of confining themselves to 
the stuccoed floor and the resined parquet, they practised upon 
stony ground and upon slippery grass, and, by way of accustom- 
ing the eye to the true point, not to the button, they screwed on 
a goad (32) about half an inch long, which it was very advisable 
to pajry. Experto crede! 

The career of the celebrated Count C., who ended life in a 
pistol duel with an Englishman, was typical of the time and 
country. Certain peculiarities of make and manner had made 
him a kind of butt in society, and society, as it often does, went 
too far. C. suddenly disappeared, and for three years was sup- 
posed to be travelling h had travelled only to a back street 
off the Toledo, where he spent day and night in practising and 
studying the sword. At last he as suddenly reappeared, and 
was greeted with a shout and a cry of " Ecco il nostro bello C. ] " 
The farceur who uttered the words received a schiaffo, and the 
result was a duel, in which he had the worst. This was 
followed by others, and I need hardly go on with the story to 
the bitter end. With the small sword Count C. was simply 


Of late years the Italians have modified their system by the 
so-called Giuoco misto. The inventor was a fine old sworder, 
Alberto Marchionni, who died about 1870. At the age of fifteen 
he began service with the French Empire, whose " legions had 
married Victory " ; after ten years he retired, and was chosen 
master of the Roale Scuola di Marina at Genoa, with the brevet 
of His Sardinian Majesty. He then went to France, where 
he " found all save his own country," and finally settled at 
Florence, where he opened a celebrated salle, and worked out 
the nuova sistema. His TrataUo di Scherma, published in 1847, 
is said to be an opera originate; but experts declare that it was 
greatly assisted by a certain ex-lieutenant and professor of 
arms, Sampieri, of Florence, whose name is quoted in the 
supplement, not on the title page. 

Marchionni, originally a fencer of the French school, began 
the study of the Italian comparatively late in life, and flattered 
himself that he had combined the advantages of both. I do not 
like his system, but I must own that it has merits, especially 

(32) This anticipates the "pointe d'arret " introduced'a few years 
ago by the French into the epee competitions in Paris, and since 
universally employed, in various improved forms, to assist the judges 
in scoring encounters with the epee. 

The Second Evening. 25 

that of simplicity. (33) To sketch even an outline would lead 
me deep into unseemly technicalities ; but I have made extensive 
notes upon the subject, which, though still in manuscript, are 
entirely at your service. The system has become general in 
Upper Italy, where, however, " hostile rencontres" are nowa- 
days usually settled with the sabre. As the point is freely used, 
in addition to the edge, nothing can be more illogical ; a curved 
weapon with a centre of percussion thus takes the place of the 
stiff, straight sword, not the bent wire of the Frenchman, whose 
speciality was the thrust. Perhaps broadsword is chosen 
because it is, generally speaking, less mortal than rapier, but 
if so, why use the point ? 


Has anyone in this room ever been at Bologna, where the 
Lambertini, father and eon, teach the scuola mista? 

" I was there last year," answered Shughtie, " and you eeem 
to forget, or, /perhaps, you don't know, that Vittorio, the son, 
went to Russia in June, 1873." 

My dear Shughtie, why will you be everywhere? Why not 
leave us some place unvisited by " Master S., the great 
traveller " ? However, you will correct me if I have wrongly 
appreciated the " City of the Leaning Towers," the home of 
Achille Marozzo, the learned inventor of all modern fencing, 
not to epeak of the Carracci and Domenichino, of Galvani, and 
of Mezzofanti. 

There is a something in the presence of Bologna that softens 
the soul ; a venerable, time honoured aspect, a more medieval 
Tours, which appeals to feelings not wearable upon the sleeve ; 
a solemnity of vast, ruinous hall and immense deserted arcade; 
a perspective of unfinished church and mediaeval palace, relics 
of the poetical past, with its old-time quietude and privacy, 
which have projected themselves into the prosaic present. You 
will find the timber supports of the old Etruscan temple still 
lingering in these "grand and awful times" of ours. You 
learn with pleasure that you can lose yourself in the long, laby- 
rinthine streets, wynde, and alleys, such contrasts with the 
painful rectangular regularity of New York and Buenos Ayrea. 
The artistic Greeks preferred straight lines of thoroughfare 
intersecting one another ; but they had aesthetic reasons for the 
plan which led to the principal temple, and they applied it to 
their miniature official towns, where it must have compared 
pleasantly with the large, irregular suburbs beyond the walls. 

(33) Fencers of our generation will remember the admirable ex- 
posjtion of " mixed play " made by the Ca valient) Pini in the Empress 
Rooms against Kirchhoffer, the French champion. The foil the 
Frenchman broke oji Pini's breast is preserved in the Sword Club, in 
Durham-street, Strand. A fragment of it fell at the King's feet in the 
heat of their assault. 

26 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

The moderns have adopted it, and, adapting it to a vast scale, 
we have produced not a copy, but a caricature. Briefly, to 
describe the effect of the aristocratic old city, the " rural capital 
of the Emilia," you have only to remember that of Manchester 
and Birmingham, and to conjure up into imagination the direct 
reverse. It is a noble mediaeval castle dwarfing the brand-new 
semi-detached villa. 

" True, king ! But what has this poetical and unpatriotic 
description, to do with fencing? " 

Nothing, I replied, my Shughtie ; aliquando bonus dormitat. 
Pardon again ! 

Blasco Florio (34), a highly distinguished modern writer (1828) 
on the use of weapons, thus sketches with a master hand the 
characteristics of the several schools, and, though the idea is the 
same, yet all vary like the physiognomy and the language of 
their different races. I will not adopt the ugly modifications of 

Of the Spanish school, he writes: 

" The Spanish school, neglecting all elegance, and resultless 
expenditure of force ; with a plain, true guard ; with the body 
well poised, and with the arm wholly extended towards the 
object of aim ; with all the self-contained gravity and thought- 
ful seriousness proper to an action which represents the Duello ; 
handling a sword with a most solid blade and a shell-hilt armed 
with crossbars; abandoning every movement which savours of 
the cut; this system, I say, looks only to defending itself, and 
to offending by the shortest, the most covered, and the most 
cautious ways with the least possible outlay of strength and 
with the least waste of space." Unhappily, this noble and most 
ancient school may now be said to have died the death ; modern 
Spaniards use the French style. 

Of t.h.e Italians we read : 

" ThA system may be divided into three well-marked 
branches. There is (1) the Italian, properly so called, and 
extending throughout the Peninsula ; (2) the Neapolitan belongs 
to the south; and (3) the Sicilian is peculiar to the great 
Trinacrian Island. Florio asserts that the Italian school of his 
time happily blended, as was the character of the nation, French 
vivacity with Spanish gravity, whilst its weapon and its guards 
held the juste milieu between those two extremes of racial 
character. The Italian proper aims at covering the shortest 
distances with the least expenditure of strength, and at touch- 

(34) The works and editions of this writer between. 1820 and 1866 fill 
one and a half pages of Mr Carl Thimm's Bibliography of Fencing 
and Duelling (18%). Burton quotes from his Discorso sull utilita della 
Scherma (1st edition, 1825). La Scienza della Scherma appeared in 

The Second Evening. 27 

ing the adversary whilst consulting its own security." As the 
date shows, this description refers to the palmy days of the 
Italian school, before the " mixed play " came into existence. 

Of the Neapolitan we are told : 

" The Neapolitan fencing, twin sister of the Sicilian, but less 
fond of movement; using the weapon and showing the gravity 
of the Spaniard ; with its peculiar guard, based upon the 
principles of animal mechanics; with all the concentration of 
purpose and the finesse mixed with the lightness of spirits 
proper to an action that represents sport and combat; this 
style proceeds with the greatest economy of force, of space, and 
of measure; it never makes a pass nor comes to a parry without 
studied foresight and the conviction of success ... in fine, 
abandoning the useless, the casual, and the inopportune, it pro- 
poses to itself the safest, the simplest, and the easiest modes of 
offence and defence." 

Since these lines were written the Neapolitan school, pre- 
serving its -old traditions, has become the Italian school; Penin- 
sular writers always contrast its guard and lunge with the 
French. The Sicilian is in these times practically unknown to 
Englishmen, so details of its peculiarities are interesting : 

" The national Sicilian style, fiery as its own Etna, fecund of 
ideas as its soil, brisk as its air, with a more workmanlike guard 
than the Italian, and with the Spanish blade, adds to the agile 
movements of the French school more subtlety and more com- 
binations than all the other systems ; its cautious and tortuous 
lines of deception converge upon the main objects of self- 
defence and of disabling the adversary." 

I should rather say that the Sicilian school, invented by 
Giuseppi Villardita, called "II Nicosioto," has preserved 
whilst others have forgotten the multitudinous feints and the 
gymnastic action of the old masters, such as the sbasso or 
sparita (bending to ground) ; the inquarto or scanso di vita 
in dentro (taking ground to the left) ; the intagliata or scanso 
di vita in fuori (taking ground to the right) ; and a hpst of 
others to which writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries give so much importance. 


We cannot but observe how much the Italian invention of 
the sixteenth century affected Italian poetry. Compare, for 
instance, the Monomachia or Singulare Certamen of Homer, 
Virgil, and Milton with the duels of Ariosto and Tasso ; you at 
once distinguish the effects of Achille Marozzo's art engrafted 
upon the characteristic realism of the romantic school in poetry. 
What can be more true to life than the lines of " 1'Omero 
Ferrarese," describing the duel between Ruggiero and 
Mandricardo ? 

Tasso' s duel between Tancrede and the " fero Argante " 

28 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

(vi., 42) is also perfect, and in Canto xix., 11, he shows all 
the finesse of art : 

E con la spada sua la spada trova 
Nemica, e'n disviiarla usa ogni prova. 

Again, of feinting (vi., 42) : 

Or qui ferire aocenna, e poscia altrove, 

Dave non minaccio, ferir si vede; 

The " dynamics of the sword," time, distance, force, and 
velocity, are well expressed in the duel between the noble 
Italian and the fierce Circassian (xix, 11) : 
E di corpo Tancredi agile e sciolto 

E di man velocissimo e di piede 
Sovrasta a lui con 1'alto capo, e molto 
Di grossezza di membra Argante eccede. 

Compare with vi., 42: 

Oiascuno ai col pi move 
La destra, ai guardi 1'ocoliio, ai passi il piede; 

Si reca in atti vari, in guardie nove; 

We find even the use of the " helo " (ha!) called in modern 
Italy " dar delle voce " (vi., 44), 

Con la voce la spada insiome estolle, 

and the preparatory extension movements before the combat 
(stoccata all'aria), where Argante 

Nuda ha la spada, c la solleva. e scotc, 
Gridiando, c 1'aria, e roinbre invan pereote (vii., 53). 
and the primitive practice of striking with the pommel 
(xii., 56): 

E piu ristretta 

Si fa la pugna : e spada oprar uon giova 
Dansi co' pomi, e infelloniti e crudi. 

We can hardly wonder that the " incomparable " Tasso's 
duels are lengthily quoted in every Italian " Trattato," and 
that Baron Rosaroll (1803) (35) boasts himself to be a " pupil of 
Tasso." The unhappy poet was a practical man as well as a 
theorist. In his biography (Giov. Batta Manse, Chap. xi. 
Venice, 1815) we read how he defended himself single-handed 
against four brothers ; how he wounded two, and how prob- 
ably he would have put the rest hors de combat had the 
populace not interfered. (36) 

(35) Scorza Rosaroll, author (with Pietro Grisetti) of La Scienza dclln 
Scherma, 4, 1803. Milano (ten folding' plates), and of Trattato della 
Spadancia o sia della Spada Larga, 8, 1818, Napoli. 

(3G) The are translations of the most import-ant of the 
above passages from Oerusalemme Liberata : 

Still parrying stroke with stroke, he tried 

All points of skill to turn the assailing sword aside. 

J. H. WHIFPEN (Bohn.), xix., 11. 

The Second Evening 29 

To resume our notices of the schools. Concerning the 
" Scherma Settentrionale," we read : 

1'V'ncing, being >n indigen, so to speak, of the temperate climes, 
where we find great mobility, quickness, and readiness of body and 
mind, shows that of the extremes. The man of the north, having 
strong muscles and an equable temper, the result, says Cabanis, of 
great cold, shows but feeble and depressed sensibilities. Hence he 
shows feinting, rapidity of action, and elasticity of movement; nor 
can we say that the Teutons or the Scandinavians have any school of 
their own. Their proiper exercises are those of the heroic ages, 
wrestling and pugilism, which combine few corporeal movements wMh 
weight and great exertion o thew and sinew. Those few who study 
fencing have wholly adopted the French school. In London, however, 
a salle was opened by the famous Antonio Francolanza, of Catania, 
the last descendant of the well-known Sicilian fencing master. In 
Germany and Hungary, and generally in the provinces bordering upon 
Turkey, the favourite weapon is the sabre, and the people have become 
most dexterous in its use. 

The French system is thus described : 

The French fencer, armed with a blade lacking shell and cross- 
bars, is unable to adopt some attacks and not a few defences; he 
must ever come to the parry, and in order to ease himself he must 
carry the body and the right arm eccentrically curved. By way of 
lightening his weapon as much as possible, he holds it like a stick; 
hence liis style, ignoring economy of space, is fitted rather for cutting 
than for thrusting. ... Ho is obliged, and often inopportunely, to 
get within measure; to lose the advantages of time and sang-froid, 
and consequently to miss the proper object of fencing, to touch and 
not be touched. 

Close at his surest ward each warrior lieth; 

He wisely guides his hand, his foot, his eye; 
This blow he jiroveth, that defence be trk'tli; 

He traverseth, retireth, presseth nigh; 
Now strikes he out, and now he falsified! (faints); 

This blow he wardeth, that lie lets slip by; 
And for advantage oft he lets some part 
Discovered seem; thus art deludeth art. FAIRFAX, vi., 42. 
Raised with his voice his sword aloft. liuiix, vi., 42. 
Tancred of body active was, and light, 

Quick, nimble, ready, both of hand and foot, 
But higher by the head the Pagan Knight 

Of limb far greater was, of heart as stout. 
Tancred laid low and travers'd in his fight. 

Now to his ward retir'd, and now struck out. 
Oft with his sword his foe's fierce blows he broke, 
And rather chore to ward than bear his stroke. 

FAIRFAX, xix., 11. 

No room have they to foin, no room to lash; 
Their blades flung back, like butting-rams they bound, 
Fight with the hilts, wild, savage, raging, rasli, 
And shield at sounding shield, and helm at helmet dash. 

BOIIX, xii., 56. 
c 2 

30 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

In his frankness and good faith he falls into the opponent's snares, 
and thus he loses the meed of subtlety, of " foiling art by art." 
Finally, considered with respect to the prettiness of its movements, the 
rhythm and mannerism of its practice, and the attitudes of its guard 
and other actions, his assaults, instead of imaging the duel, resolve 
themselves into a gallant show of ceremony which borders upon the 

This celebrated passage has been much commented upon, and 
it can hardly be considered fair. The French do not, and 
never did, use their swords like sticks; in fact, artificiality has 
ever been, till lately, their main defect. " Parmi nous, 
1'adresse trop recherchee dans 1'usage dea armes, dont nous 
nous servons a la guerre, est devenue ridicule," says Montes- 
quieu. Of the vivacity of their attack we have ancient testi- 
mony : " Proprium gallicani usus pugnare caesim," and long 
ago it was remarked of the Gaul : 

Tniipetp fu nolle tuttaglie prime 

Ma di leggier pod langue e si reprime. 

In Montaigne's day the French studied arms in Italy (37), and 
since that time they have often tried to " napolitanizzarsi." 
The old French guard bore two-thirds of the weight on the 
left leg, and the body slightly thrown back, an immense error, 
which we have perpetuated to the present day. In lunging, 
again, the right hand was held high above the head, render- 
ing it necessary to loosen the two smaller fingers and risking 
an easy disarm. Of course, the school had first-rate fencers 
despite all these disadvantages; but I may ask, what would 
they have been without all these senseless complications of the 
old classical school ? 


There are phases in the modern French system which 
require some allusion. The first is fencing considered in the 
light of a graceful rather than a manly exercise; "a school of 
deportment," as were the universities, the lineal offspring of tho 
mile. I have seen old Angelo (38) at Oxford bring his foil to the 

(37) We travel into Italic to learne the art of fencing, and practise it 
at the cost of our lives before we know it; it were requisite, according 
to the order of true discipline, we should preferre the theorike before 
the practike. We betray our apprentissage. Florio's Montaigne, ii.. 37. 

(38) This would be Henry Angelo the younger (1780-1852), fencing 
master and superintendent of sword exercise in the army, son of 
Henry Angelo the elder (1760-1839), author of the Reminiscences (1830) 
and Angela's Pic-nic (1834), and head of the academy from 1785, and 
grandson of the original Angelo (1716-1802), alias Domenico Angelo 
Malevolti Tremamondo, who opened his fencing school in Soho (1759) 
and published in 1763 L'Ecole d'Armes. In 1770 the salle d'armes was 
at Carlisle House, overlooking Soho-squa,re ; then was moved to Opera 
House-buildings, Hay market; next to Old Bond-street; and finally, by 
Henry Angelo the younger to St. Jamcfl's-stroet (1830-1896) the 
premises now occupied by Sandow. 

The Second Evening. 31 

salute, and, bowing profoundly to some undergraduate wild 
from the woods, pronounce with magisterial emphasis, " This, 
sir, is an academy of politeness as well as of arms ! " Fenc- 
ing was considered an " elegant " appendage to a gymnasium. 
It had its rules like the country dance or the quadrille, and 
all ccarts were put down as bad taste. Indeed, its nature was 
almost chorographic, its combinations and interlacing move- 
ments, purely artificial and inartistically showing art, made 
the glorious exercise look trivial and effeminate. Its highest 
developments always suggested a terrific combat de theatre 
on the French stage for the English, with rare exceptions, 
have preferred the hanger, used like a walking stick, for 
" thrashing " purposes. How popular the same " Judicium 
Dei " stilK is in Paris, we may judge from the fact that M 
d'Ennecy, who writes dramas for the Porte Saint-Martin, con- 
cludes 198 with sword, 168 with pistol, ten with hatchets, and 
eight with knives, thus showing the comparative favour and dis- 
favour of the weapons ; and when a Frenchman would describe 
angling, he naturally represents it as " a duel between the 
man and the fish." 

"At any rate," interrupted Seaton, "it does their artists 
a good turn. See the perfect truth of ' A Duel in the Snow.' 
Our poor fellows must draw upon a not too lively imagination. 
In one of the illustrateds I actually saw two men represented 
at the Bois de Vinoennes, where there is less police than in 
the Bois de Boulogne, preparing for business. And how do 
you think they stood on guard ? In prime, faugh ! " 

This was spoken with ineffable contempt. I resumed. As 
in the rhythmical theatrical duel, the expression of fencing was 
found in a series of familiar pases, parries, and ripostes ; in 
methodical advancings and retirings, and, generally in pro- 
found veneration for academical legends. The first principle 
was the elevation of the hand la main haute in order that 
the forte of the blade might theoretically command the foible 
of the adversary's. If you "buttoned" your opponent a dozen 
times, carrying the hand in lunge lower than the head, you 
were a tireur a main basse et a bras raccourci. Another Medo- 
Persian law was never to touch above the shoulder blade nor 
below the waist ; you passed what would have been a mortal 
thrust to the throat or to the stomach ; the adversary said, not 
" touche ! " but " trop bas ! " or "trop haut !" I shall return 
to this "precious ridicule." 

" Which is the essence of first-rate swordsmanship," said the 
indignant Seaton, who could no longer keep silent. 

The second aspect of fencing represents it as a science to be 
studied in all its details, to be questioned for its secrets, to 
be reduced into a regular system. Like all sciences, this 
demands special gifts, and without a peculiar organisation and 

c 3 

32 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

a grace of intuition, the privilege of the heaven-born swords- 
man, aided and worked out by conscientious study and im- 
perious labour, constant withal and uninterrupted, no man 
can expect to arrive at real and remarkable force. Fencers of 
this calibre have at all times been, and will ever be, rare ; 
such incontestable superiorities show like great constellations 
amongst those stars, the jolies forces courantes, the average 
first-raters. The last generation of Frenchmen probably carried 
their art to its apogee, and it would be easy to quote a number 
of unprofessional men, who held their heads high amongst the 
masters of the world. 

The third aspect is fencing considered purely as the art ol 
defending oneself, and of offending the enemy. Here the 
traditions of the salles are valued only as they suit the student's 
individuality; he modifies them for and to himself, instead ol 
doing, as his father did, the reverse. He ruthlessly sacrifices 
ornament to utility ; he rejects complication and combinations 
the superfluities introduced by time and professors, which ar< 
admirable with buttoned foils, but which fly from the point 
The play becomes a serious and threatening struggle; it: 
characteristic is the unforeseen, Vimprevu, to which the fire 
Napoleon attributed such mysterious powers, and which ha: 
ever since been the characteristic of French I may saj 
European politics. Instead of graceful pass and learnec 
parry, blade meets blade with rude vigour, bent only upoi 
finding an unguarded spot. It is the fray, not the sport 
It is a fight, the more impressive because science offers he: 
omnipotent aid, and her myriad resources are accepted onb 
so far as they add to the power and efficiency of the man. 

"It is strange," objected Lady B., "that you Englishmei 
brought up abroad can hardly speak of a foil without taking 
off its button mentally and instinctively." 

Hence, I continued, acknowledging the remark with i 
sal'am, the difference between the two methods, the ancien 
and the modern French system, we will call them. 

The one would preserve intact and pure of alloy, as of prc 
gress the academical traditions of bygone days ; and woul< 
touch or be touched, would win or lose, like the old Austria! 
marshals, by norm and rule. It reposes upon authority ; i 
has, like other matters which shall be nameless, an infallibilit; 
of its own. It begs the world to stand still, because movemen 
is irksome to it. Its motto is, " Thus far you shall go, sir, am 
no farther." Like Free Trade, it would be a benefit to on 
and all, if one and all would only adopt it unfortunately the; 
will not. 

The other flies to the opposite extreme, and to a certaii 
oxtenit does well, because extremes define the so-called " golder 
mean." It would change everything, the bad to the good, t>h 

The Second Evening. 33 

good to the better, despite that subtle suggestion of Satan 
Oh, excuse me ! le mieux est Vennemi du bien. It looks upon 
all that is old with suspicion, as fitted for its own day, unfit 
for ours. It believes in realism, utilitarism, progress, develop- 
ment, and its device is " Sic itur ad astra." 


Thus was the fencing room a picture of modern society, 
a miniature of the world. From the days of Locke (39) 
the great modern school of thought, which practically makes 
actual sensible experience, with its legitimate inferences, 
the sole sources of human knowledge, though exceedingly repul- 
sive to the majority of mankind, has steadily gained ground. 

(39) The following is the locus classicus upon fencing from the great 
Utilitarian's work Of Education ( 199). On the whole, he seems 
rather to discourage the art for fear of fomenting quarrels and duels, 
and the last paragraph shows' that he did not foresee fencing would 
survive duelling : 

As for fencing, it seems to me a good exercise for health, but 
dangerous to the life, the confidence of their skill being apt to engage 
in quarrels those that think they have learned to use their swords. 
This presumption makes them often more touchy than needs, on 
Pqjnt of honour, and slight or no provocations. 

Young men in their warm blood are forward to think they have 
in vain learned to fence, if they never show their skill and courage in 
a duel; and they seem to have reason. But how many sad tragedies 
that reason has bejen the occasion of, the tears of many a mother can 
witness, A man that cannot fence will be more careful to keep out 
of bullies' and gamesters' company, and will not be half so apt to 
stand upon punctilios, nor give affronts, or fiercely justify them when 
given, which is that which usually makes the quarrel. And when a 
man is in the field, a moderate skill in fencing rather exposes him to 
the sword of his enemy than secures him frojn it. And certainly a 
man of courage, who cannot fence at all, and therefore will put all 
upon one thrust and no.t stand parrying, has the odds against a 
moderate fencer, especially if he has skill in wrestling. And there- 
fore, if any provision is to be made against such accidents, and a 
man be to prepare his son for duels, I had much rather mine should 
be a good wrestler than an ordinary fencer; which is the most a 
gentleman can attain to in it, unless he will be constantly in the 
fencing school and every day exercising. But since fencing and 
riding the great horse are so generally looked upon as necessary 
qualifications in the breeding of a gentleman, it will be hard wholly 
to deny anyone of that rank these marks of distinction. I shall leave 
it, therefore, to the father, to consider how far the temper of his 
son, and the station he is like to be in, will allow or encourage him 
to comply with fashions, which, having very little to do with civil 
life, were yet formerly unknown to the most warlike nations, and 
seem to have added little of force or courage to those who have 
received them; unless we will think martial kill or prowess have 
been improved by duelling, with which fencing came into, and with 
which, I presume, it will go out of the world. 

34 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

The labours of Hume, Adam Smith, Bentham, and John Stuarl 
Mill are gradually establishing utility as the test of morale, 
and therefore of law, and therefore of fencing. An ever 
increasing success tends to weld into one mass our knowledge 
of physical nature and our acquaintance with the moral world 
fencing included. France has brilliantly opposed it with th 
epithets of ignoble and one-sided ; Germany has severely 
denounced it and scientifically attempted refutation. In Englanc 
also it has seen many reactions, and even within its limits thert 
are mighty controversies as to the true nature and applicatior 
of its principles. Its best supporters own that it has nevei 
been, and never perhaps will be, popular; and yet, strange tc 
say, it advances with giant strides, and it threatens, to mak< 
experimentalism and utilitarianism the faith of the civilisec 

Solemn silence No. 2. It was not perhaps the " perfectes 
herald of joy." 

"My opinion is," quoth Seaton with extra assertion, "thai 
the art of arms is another king retired from business a pool 
old Lear stung by his serpent's teeth. The throne is a new 
Tower of Babel all talk and bustle and no understanding. Thi; 
one wants to speak a private and particular language. Th< 
gentle legends and testaments of our great men only warm uj 
this modern vanity. We change about and wheel about, anc 
call it progress; it's the progress of the blinded camel turning 
its mill. This decline and fall of swordmanship is greatly th< 
fault of the professors. At first they disdained the movement 
and then burst into rage when too late, somewhat like poo 
Colonel Sykes and the India House. It'll be the ruin of thi 
art, and now every man'll be his own artist." 

Surely you go too far, I interposed when my sanguin< 
and choleric friend stopped to recover breath after his comma 
less burst of eloquence. You speak true, but not the whol< 
truth. Even in the mania of revolution, had you looked int< 
the salle of my old professor Pons (40) you would have found i 

(40) The celebrated Professor Charles Pons (1793-1885) flourished as i 
maitre d'armes in Paris, was teacher of the " Cent Gardes " o 
Napoleon III., and was the master of many well-known amateur.? 
including the Baron de Bazancourt. His portrait is given ii 
L'Escrime Fran<;aise (May 20, 1890), and his salle d'armes 
first in tlie Rue St. Honore, then in the Rue de 
Pyramids, was the first salle in Paris to be turned inti 
a club. It was subsequently merged into the Salle Mimiague 
now in the Rue St. Honore, presided over by the well-known Professo 
Rouleau, assisted by his two sons. Adolphe and Georges, the latter o 
whom made so fine an assault with M. Camille Prevost in London a 
\he Portman Rooms in 1899. Pons was run through the body by < 
loil at an assault in London in 1840, and on his recovery dedicate 
the foil and the fencing jacket he wore as an ex-voto in the Convon 
of the Annunciation at Mentone (see a letter from his grand-nephev 

The Second Evening. 35 

group of amateurs who combined with the energy and indi- 
viduality of the new system the tastes and the traditions of the 
old. The moderate party in life is far more numerous than 
you men of extremes suppose. For one who, like Dr Chalmers, 
held humanity a little higher than the angels, or one who, as 
did a writer that shall not be specified, believed him to be 
much lower than the devils, there are millions that place him 
in the intermediate rank. 

I might dispute on metaphysical grounds (a manly murmur 
of "don't") the implied and usurped superiority of idealism 
over realism. For me there is no reason why the dream should 
be the type of perfect beauty, the wakening state that of home- 
liness and deformity. But I will return to the sword (" Thanks" 
in a more audible tone). 

Meanwhile, by the side of the venerable retrogrades I 
thought this fair and of the madcap progressionists who wish 
only to enthrone their extravagances, there is a third body, 
which is carrying everything before it. These are the experi- 
enced swordsmen, whose judgment and practice have been 
matured by study and science. They not only accept the 
position of things, the revolution, in fact, for it is nothing else ; 
they demand it, they hail it. They say to the older school, 
you are an academy, a sort of "elegant exercise"; you have 
carried to excess your agility, your address, your artificiality; 
you read like a book. 

But what remarked the Fox about the tragic mask ? 
However fair be the front, there .is nought behind ; it is an 
absolute "dickey," a hole where we expect a hill. You have 
prescribed, nay you have issued, your syllabus, your anathema- 
maranatha against the individuality of man, against that 
imprevu upon which every strong man relies. We want a larger 
arena ; we want elbow room for our own natures. You must 
clear the way, or 

Seaton groaned aloud, and I respected his emotion. 


There was a dead silence No. 3. I resolved to remain 
voiceless till called upon to speak. 

" Can you not," Lord S. said, " put the question before us 
in calmer terms than these? " 

" Yes. Do mix a little water with all that wine ! " sug- 
gested Shughtie, who disliked "volcanic language" from 
anyone but himself. 

I will do my best. The modern system claims to have reason 

Armand Pons to L'Escrime Fran^aise, March 5, 1889; and L' Almanack 
de I'Escrime for 1899). " M. Pons aine avait tous ses eleves pour amis," 
wrote Logon ve in Den us Epces Brisees (.see also Discours pronona'' le 
3 Janvier, 1884, a Chatou sur la tombe du Maltre d'Armes Pons, par 
Arthur de Grandeffe). 

36 The Sentiment -of the Sword. 

on its side. It aims rather at reconstructing than at abolish- 
ing; it would not suppress, it would supplement. 

Hear the voice of one of its masters (41) : 

The true strength of a swordsman consists less in the charm 
of his manner, in the academic grace of his pose, in the magis- 
terial regularity of his movements, than in his judgment, his 
spontaneity, and his quickness of attack and defence. 

When a fencer has once mastered the few fundamental rules 
upon which his science, like all others, is based ; 

When his hand and arm, in perfect unison with his body, 
have acquired the proper degree of muscular equilibrium; 

When his sinews have learned the difficult task of applying 
the exact force required, neither more, which would throw his 
sword out of line, nor less, which would deliver him into 
the hands of his enemy ; 

When he appreciates the full significance of what can be 
effected by a step forwards or a step backwards; 

When he is aware of the danger incurred by compound 
attacks, and 1 can rely for simple attacks upon his hand and his 
coup d'oeil; 

When he has learned what nature has given to him and 
what she has refused, where he is likely to fail and how he is 
likely to succeed ; 

Then, I say, allow him to take the path to which hie instincts 
tend, and to use according to his inspiration the fruit of his 

On the other hand, do not say to him : 

Here is the narrow circle beyond which you shall not stir, the 
fatal bourne of all your actions, of all your ideas. 

You find it easier, for some physical reason I hope not 
hepatic to attack, parry, and ripost, with the body bent for- 
wards from the waist. No matter; sit straight upon your 
haunches like a military rider. Allans, rcdresscz vous ! The 
Academy says: "Je n'admets pas que dans un coup d'armes 
on doive porter le corps en avant ; cette position est dangereuse, 
inutile pour atteindre son adversaire, et defavorable pour se 
relever de la jambe droite apres avoir attaque." What can be 
more contrary to common sense ? 

This was more than impatient Seaton could bear. " The 
Academy" he cried, " is not half severe enough upon your mad 
freaks. This is a French Revolution you propoee a mere 
rationalism without tradition, a breaking with the past and no 
eye to the future. In practice we all have the fault of leaning 
the body forward. Look at the mass of evidence collected by 
Capt. George Chapman (Foil Practice, <r., pp. 14-16). You 

(41) This is a free rendering from Baza-neon rt's Secrets dc 1'Epce 
(First evening. Ch. vii., pp. 32-34 of Mr C. F. Clay's translation). In 
his preceding " three aspects of fencing " and elsewhere. Burton also 
follows Bazancourt's lead more or less closely. 

Tin' Second Evening. 37 

would raise this vice into a virtue, you would teach it to your 
pupils you are immoral, you are dangerous." 

We must both keep our own opinions. But to resume my 
quotation : 

You prefer to keep out of distance, and you find that a 
closer approach preoccupies your mind, embarrasses your 
thoughts, and subjects you to the surprise of a swift lunge, 
which comes upon you like a flash of lightning. Not at all; 
you must take your place within the recognised limits that is, 
within reasonable reach of the opponent's weapon. 

You feel yourself overweighted in the match ; your adversary 
has the better of you in straight thrusts, in degagemente, in 
upper-cuts (coupes), and in the more complicated attacks ; 
your sole defence is to withdraw your blade from his, so as to 
leave him no base of operations, as it were. On the contrary, 
you must offer him your sword, il faut donner le fer. Such is 
the rule, such is the law ; only bad swordsmen and ferrailleurs, 
who thrust wildly right and left, attempt to do otherwise. 

Your hand has not the height of the classic fencer, you some- 
times thrust with a bent arm, and you even strike low in the 
stomach, for instance. Certainly in a duel nothing could be 
more fatal, yet the sallcs d'armes tell you that it is bad form. 
Therefore the mistake must not be repeated. 

" Amen ! " quoth Seaton. 

I suppress the discussion which took place upon this occasion, 
and I shall do the same whenever the debates, which were ever 
recurring, failed to fix themselves upon my memory whilst 
writing out my notes next morning. 


All these are prejudices, pure and simple. The assault is 
the image of the fight ; it is what drill is to battle. Only your 
artificial systems of arms allow one style in the fencing school, 
another in the field. Such " company manners," as my nurse 
called something of the kind, are not admissible. They are 
shams, they are snares, they are delusions. 

The natural system, based, I have said, upon utility and 
experiment, allows every man his liberty of action. It does not 
pretend nor attempt to teach him grace and neatness of execu- 
tion, if his instinct and his individuality find these qualities 
factitious and foreign. Let your pupil form himself after his own 
image as far as you can with conscience. If you force him to 
copy, to resemble you, it will make him only an easier victim 
to all the originals of your traditional system. 

As a master, if you fence with him, take advantage of his 
faults 'tis the readiest way of correcting them. 

As an adversary, if you find his play dangerous, without 
being pleasant to the eye, try to combine both advantages ; 
perhaps he may be induced to imitate you. 

38 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

The student of arms should at once be encouraged by the 
amplest liberty in choosing the style which suits him best. You 
will see it dawn during the first hour after he has held a sword 
in hand, and it is so little possible for one man to take the just 
measure of another man ! How often we confound with wild 
hobbies and eccentricities that which does not satisfy our ideas, 
although it has been founded upon the truest science ; how often 
we despise as the merest ignorance the fruit of intelligent study. 
Someone has called individual man the microcosm and the rest 
of creation the macrocosm. I feel myself the macrocosm. 

" Rank metaphysical heresy," quoth Shughtie. 

When you, O Seaton, find yourself hand to hand with these 
sons of the new system, you doubtless know that they belong to 
one or the other of two species. 

The first. Your adversary has adopted his own and peculiar 
form of attack and defence ; after a course of reasoning and of 
self-examination he has found what is best for himself and what 
is worst for you. He may have been nursed and fledged in the 
mile d'armes, but he has whetted and sharpened his own beak 
and talons, and if you oppose him with any academic banalities 
you must expect to suffer from peck and tear. 

The second. Your opponent acts without judgment, beating, 
as it were, the blades, whipping the air, making futile 
half attacks; lunging when out of distance; stopping 
you at the moment most dangerous to himself; parrying, now 
dully, then with a convulsive force ; unsteady in the left leg and 
nervous with the right foot. In dealing with such pupils of the 
modern or individual method you will have no difficulty. The 
practised chess player, however third rate, is always master of 
uninstructed genius, however lofty. With your experience and 
dexterity you at once drive him into a corner, and his instincts 
will probably lead the silly bird into the first gin which you 
draw from your pocket. 

" With your system," cried Seaton, " I shall find nine of the 
latter to one of the former kind." 

'Tis the same with yours ! But beware of my tenth. 


Here, then, ladies and gentlemen, is the disputed question, 
the great quarrel of the two systems, the Artificial and the 
Natural. It is inveterate as the Wars of the Red Rose with 
the White Rose, and it much reminds me of the oft-quoted 
Shield with the gold and silver sides. I might on a former 
occasion have fitted it into its own little niche of our nine- 
teenth century edifice, but that you will do more satisfactorily 
for yourselves. 

This time the expressions of gratitude were warmer and 
more marked. The hour hand approached midnight. 

I have not spared details which fix facts and theories upon 

The Third Evening. 39 

the memory; and allow me to thank you for the exemplary 
patience and long-suffering shown this evening. 

"What will there be to-morrow? " Lady B. asked. 

I can hardly say. It is impossible in such matters to follow 
out a regular order, and there are certain digressions which 
have legal rights upon a speaker. And after saying so much 
upon the principles of the schools, the logical sequence would 
be their practice. 

" What ! logic even in fencing ! " said Lady Margaret re- 

Logic in everything ; only let us be careful to set upon a basis 
cf its own the logic of things as distinguished from the logic 
of words. 

An " Oh ! " like a sigh welcomed this unhappy but emphatic 

" I see," remarked Lord B., " that to-morrow evening it will 
be man's fate to be alone." 

Salemn silence number four. The consensus of those con- 
cerned was stronger than any expressed assent. 

" At any rate, I shall hope before long to hear something 
about your regiment of Amazons," said Lady Mary, the blonde, 
by way of softening he blow. But the faces of Seaton and 
Shughtie were sore to look upon. 

The cosmopolite, after the candles were lighted and the door 
was closed, growled thrice, picked out a briar root, and retired 
to the darkest corner, promising to turn off the gas within a 
quarter of an hour. I left him alone without the Amazons. 


DURING the day I hud reflected upon the easiest and 
neatest way of explaining my method of simplification 
my conviction that simplicity alone makes the belle maniere. 
In my youth I had tried the same with cavalry drill, never 
being able to understand why in these days, when arms of pre- 
cision and rapid fire are universal, ranks should be doubled. 
From my own system of bayonet exercise I had extracted a few 
simple movements, which could be contained on a page of note- 
paper, and yet which would enable the soldier to defend him- 
self against most comers. It is evident that the same can be 
done with fencing. 


At last the smoking party met, and I addressed it from my 
cane-bottomed chair : 

You have been told that fencing, stripped of its factitious 
ornaments and freed from the lumber and rubbish of the salles 

40 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

(Varmes, with their complicated and innumerable details, is a 
far easier matter to learn than men generally suppose. The 
process of simplification is not new; many writers recognised 
only four elementary passes and parries, namely, Seconde, 
Tierce, Carte, and Octave, to which some added a fifth, Septime. 
We may further reduce the elements to two, and, do what we 
will, we cannot extend them beyond four. Let us tabulate them 

1. Attacks: 

(a) Simple attacks. 
(6) Compound attacks. 

2. Parries: 

(c) Simple parries. 

(d) Compound or counter parries (parades de 

And thus we have the following : 

Simple Attacks: 

STRAIGHT THRUST (especially in carte with a 
right-handed man). 

DISENGAGEMENT, or passing the point under the 
opponent's blade. 

The CUT OVER (tagliata, coupe), or passing the 
point over the blade 

Compound Attacks : 
ONE, Two : 

The BEAT, followed by straight thrust. 

The BEAT, with disengagement. 

The liement, or BINDING the opponent's sword 
from higher to lower line. 

Simple Parries: 

TIERCE (high line outside), when tolerably sure of 
the adversary. 

CARTE (high line inside), when tolerably sure of 
the adversary. 

SECONDE. Carte basse (low carte). 
Compound Parries : 

COUNTERS or demicircles (half circles in tierce and 

FULL CIRCLES (especially useful to the imperfect 

This certainly does not look like the many-headed hydra 
which is supposed to require a Hercules. 

" But you've forgotten," interrupted Charles, " an immense 
number of lunges and parries. Hardly possible to write such 
stout folios as those upstairs on a simple expression like this." 

Said Shuightie: "I see that our neologistic and progressive 
friend has done what he proposed to do with the Sanskrit 

The Third Evening. 41 

declensions reduced them from ten to two or three, thereby 
worse confusing their confoundedness." 

" Yes," added Seaton, " his simplicity has become silly. 
Can't he see that a variety of movements is the best practice 
to attain excellence in a few ? " 

I have forgotten them with malice prepense, because I 
believe them to be useful only to the teacher, not to 
the learner. I look upon them as part of the profession, and 
professions must live. Je n'cn vois pas la necessile is hardly a 
fair rejoinder to il faut virre. The surgeon often advises you 
to part with a leg or an arm did you, by the by, ever see a 
one-legged or one-armed doctor? 


But, supposing the teacher to teach all these complications 
with bona fides, as doubtless he generally does, I then observe 
that they are calculated only to embarrass the intelligence of his 
pupil. The more you simplify the means of action in the use 
of weapons the more readily they are learned and the more 
easily they are executed. Surely this is self-evident, even to 
you, O Seaton ! 

Remark, also, that I have given you a full perhaps an un- 
necessarily full list of attacks, parries, and ripostes. Many 
might reasonably be retrenched, because they are mere modifi- 
cations of the same movement. 

Thus, for instance, " One, two," is a couple of simple dis- 
engagements, the first executed in the line of tierce, we will say, 
and the second in carte. 

One, two, three, par parenthkse, is becoming obsolete (1) on 
account of the risk which always accompanies a complicated 
attack, giving room for a time thrust (2). 

The battement (beat) and straight thrust, again, is as 
evidently a combination. I do not mention the froissement 
d'epee (3), or slidipg parry, which is now used only in the pre- 
liminary salutes. It is a favourite with schoolboys for disarm- 
ing the antagonist ; but on the field you cannot thrust at a man 
with naked hand, and in the saile d'armes you are bound, by 
Courtesy, to pick up his weapon for him. Formerly, when foils 
were capped with leather, not with gutta-percha knobs, 
some puerile dexterity was also shown in locking the buttons 

(1) One, two, three is still largely used in the lesson, and fairly 
rften in the assault. 

(2) A time thrust (coup de temps) is an attack made with opposition 
rti a complicated attack, and intended to intercept the line, when 
nch an attack is meant to finish. Badminton Fencing, page 91. 

(3) The froissement, or Jroisst. is executed by rubbing or scraping 
one's foil along the opponent's 

42 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

and in screwing the foil out of the opponent's grasp. Disarm- 
ings, in fact, are fitted only for the theatres. I may add that 
these and other methods always failed if the fencer held the 
nandle properly. He should accustom himself to feel his 
weapon with his little finger and its neighbour. Remember, 
also, that grasping the grip or putting any strength in the fore- 
fingers and thumb not only tires the wrist, but also makes the 
point wander. Some men have a trick of laying the index 
along the handle, but I never found their fencing good style ; 
it is even advised by masters, who forget that etraining the 
muscles is tho chief result of the exceptional position. At best 
it can be useful only to relieve for a minute the sinews fatigued 
by tension in one direction. 

It would be better, too, if we slightly altered the hilts of 
our swords. Throughout Europe the pommel end droops down, 
when evidently it should be turned up so as to fit into the 
commissure of the wrist and give greater leverage. You will 
soon find this out by cutting at an object with all your might 
and missing it; if you are holding in your glovelesg grasp an 
old top-heavy cavalry eabre, with its short, round handle, the 
latter is sure to loosen the hand. The cut-over (coupe), again, 
which should be done in one movement, not in two, and with 
blade whistling like a whip, is merely another form of the dis- 
engagement intended for the same end, and received with tho 
same parry. You must not forget that the fundamentals are 
ihe straight thrust and the disengagement, and that the further 
you recede from them the worse for you. Let me warn you 
very stronglly against a succession of two or even three cuts-over 
(coupes), which raise the point from its proper normal position 
opposite the adversary's eye, and which offer a tempting oppor- 
tunity to a low thrust. You will find in the books fancy evolu- 
tions called coups de trois and even de quatres mouvements; allow 
them to remain there. 

The liement de I'epee, binding the blade, like the flunconnade, 
the croise (4), and others of their kind, are valuable chiefly when 
the adversary keeps his point, as some cautious men will do, 
scrupulously directed towards you, and perhaps extends his arm 
with the benevolent intention ot making you spit yourself. 
These several twistings of the sword, after engagement has taken 
place, offer the solid advantage of holding down and command- 
ing his blade if he permits you to occupy it, and if you have 
more muscle than he has, should he parry, as often happens, 
with the middle or the " feeble" of his blade, you may force in 

(4) Liement (binding the blade) is executed by passing the point over 
the opponent's sword without losing touch of his blade, straightening 
the arm and lunging in one movement, with strong opposition. 
Flanconnade is the liement d'octave. Croise. or twist, da bringing the 
adversary's blade from an upper to a lower line, when the other's 
point is too low. Badminton Fencing, page 53. 

The Third Evening. 43 

his guard. I presume you know that the rapier used to be 
divided into four parts, which were also subdivided into eight. 
The first simplification was reducing the four to three equal 
measures, beginning from the hilt the forte, the medium, and 
the feeble. Now we prefer halving it: the "strong" from the 
shoulder to the middle, the defensive, the weak being used 
for offence, and such is the leverage of the length that the 
strongest arm cannot make the latter master the former. 

You will also read of the menace coupe and the menace degage, 
which are merely the "coupe" and the " degagement " without 
the lunge. Again, the tour d'epee, soit en tierce, soil en quarte 
is a long phrase for the common counters of tierce and carte, 
converted from semi-circles into whole circles, from parries into 
attacking measures. 

These few offensive movements are absolutely all that you 
require. Yet every school has some " dodge " of its own ; 1 
will call these falsifications by no other name. This makes its 
pupils practise feintes a droit ; that, the feint e seconde, et 
tircr droit; whilst these teach them to drop the point and 
bring it up to the attack. Movements of this kind are without 
end ; I could invent on the spot half a dozen, 

Yet observe that the three simple attacks and the four com- 
pound movements which I have given you may form a formidable 
list of combinations. May is the word. The less you attempt 
them the better. When you can play with your adversary as the 
cat with the mouse you may, perhaps, allow yourself an occa- 
sional ecart; yet even then beware. I think Seaton can say 
something upon that point. 

My friend's brow clouded a little, but he laughed it off good- 
humouredly, and, after a fair amount of pressing, he proceeded 
to tell the tale. 

"It goes against me, but never mind. It has often made 
men laugh, and I dare say will do so again. I was at Abbeville, 
and at a country ball, as usual in a field or an orchard. There was 
a ' difficulty ' between me and one of the dancers of course a 
Frenchman. The casus belli was a pretty face, which levels dis- 
tinctions. France also was then en repubtique, which doesn't 
consider differences of master and man, Jean often holding his 
head higher than M'sieur Jean. A challenge passed for the 
next morning, and I found from my second that the ' other 
party ' was a journeyman tailor. When we ' peeled ' to the shirt 
and. had been searched for weapons, I easily saw that my friend 
had no idea of using a sword, and I admired the little beggar's 
grit. It was a cold morning, threatening rain, and we'd danced 
till late, which makes one shaky. I could have ' cooked his 
goose ' with half a thrust, but I wanted to let him off easily, 
and after a little by -play to drop my point upon his shoulder, to 
draw first blood, to give a poignee de main, and to wash my 
hands of the silly affair. But I reckoned without my host. The 

44 The Sentiment of the Swor<l. 

gallant little snip would take no denial. He waited till he saw 
my point well out of line, and then he at me, ducking his head 
like a charging bull, and following his sword, which went fast 
enough. It ran me clean through the wrist, and, but for a 
turn of the muscles, I might have had a spare inch or two in 
my right breast. After which he ' confounded himself ' in 
excuses, and pleaded that it was for the justification of 'son 
honneur.' I never felt so foolish in my life. My only plan 
was to tie up my arm, to pack up my box, to pay down my 
money, and to bolt before the town heard of the adventure 
Besides, it might have been no joke. Imagine what a death for 
' an officer and a gentleman ' ! " 



I resumed. 

You will bear in mind that, throughout its attacks and parries, 
the sword can follow only these four lines : 1, high line (la lignc 
haute, la linea alta), threatening the noblest parts of the body, 
the upper torso covered by the plastron ; 2, low line (la ligne 
basse, la linea bassa), the lower part of the plastron and " below 
the belt" in pugilism; 3, outside line (le dehors, la linea di fuori), 
professionally called tierce, which menaces the shoulder and the 
flank; and 4, inside line (le dedans, la linea di dentro) or carte, 
aiming at the breast and the stomach. 

Thus, by reducing to its simplest expression this imbroglio 
of technical terms, of feints and double feints, of true engage- 
ments and false engagements, of "menaces" and "coules," of 
"croises" and " flanconnades," of " press ions " and " derobe- 
ments" (5), of "reprises" and "remises," of parries and half 
parries, we obtain two distinct advantages, both equally to be 

The pupil's mind sees more clearly the foundations of all 
practice, and can at once analyse any combination which offers 
itself. This is not so easily done by our typical English rule 
of thumb, and the greatest enemy to excellence in arms is 
that hazy idea of its principles that satisfies so many students. 
Further still. The hand reflects the lucidity of the thought (6) ; 
in the pupil of a good school it never falters; it goes straight 
to the point; it cannot stray, and it gains immensely in freedom, 
readiness, and facility of execution. Hence result the five most 
important qualities, which represent the cardinal virtues of the 
sword. These are, in due order of precedence: 

Nerve, alias presence of mind. 

(5) Coule is gliding the blade along the adversary's without pressure 
or scraping. Derobement >is quitting the adversary's blade by dron- 
pinsr the point a fe.w inches below it, 

(6) It is interesting to see how Burton has been influenced in this 
part of his subject by Bazancourt's book (see pages 44-56 of Mr C. F. 
Clay's translation). 

The Third Evening. 45 

Judgment, especially of distance, combined with sharp eye- 

Quickness of movement in hand and body. 

The tact of the sword (i.e., nice sense of touch), and 


Combined in a high degree of excellence, they form the com- 
plete swordsman. 


Presence of mind I need hardly explain. Judgment is 
a term which makes you shrink; it suggests, like "common 
sense," special gifts, trained and matured by long experience. I 
mean by it nothing more than that ordinary amount of intelli- 
gence which average men bring "to whatever they do. Each well- 
reasoned lesson will add something to your judgment, and the 
precision begotten by practice will give it the perfection of 
which it is capable. Indeed, the beginner is advised not to 
preoccupy himself with "judgment," as such process tends to 
cloud the lucidity of thought. 

Judgment in arms displays itself chiefly by distrust of the 
adversary's movements and by a wise prudence in your own; 
by divining what is most likely to deceive him; by the mute 
interrogation of the sword, and by the just appreciation of diffi- 
culties, general and special. I need hardly tell you that a 
hundred men will show a hundred styles. Judgment of distance 
is the great secret of all hand-to-hand weapons, from the dagger 
to the lance. It must not be confounded with judgment of 
distance as taught in musketry schools, yet both are mastered 
by the same process practice aided by theory and perfected by 

Quickness, meaning not only of the hand, wrist, and forearm, 
but of the whole body, is undoubtedly an immense merit, both 
in the attack and defence, the riposte and the retreat. " Slow 
and sure," chi va piano va sano, do not apply to our art. There 
are writers who hold quickness to be the very commencement 
of the fencing lesson, as it is the capital point of the fencer. 
Listen to one of the best (7) : "I believe that we must guard 
against the usual style of instruction, which consists in repeat- 
ing over and over again, ' Go slowly ; study quietly the thrusts 
and parries; attend to your position; separate your movements 
by mentally counting one, two, and so on; don't hurry; quick- 
ness will come in due time.' It is doubtless useful to train 
the hand by lessons with the plastron, but it is not useful 
to train it into slowness. The pupil, after being made to under- 
stand the mechanism, the analysis, and the meaning of each 
movement, should at once begin to practise it as quickly and 
sharply as possible. A tardy, ' dawdling ' style is so con- 
venient, and so seductive, by the facility with which it effects 

(7) Sec Bazancourt (Clay's translation, pajre 47, et seq.). 

46 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

each movement, that, it will soon react upon the judgment and 
acquire all the force of a habit, making intelligence idleness. 

"If, under pretext of training the hand and decomposing the 
movements, you allow this habit a chance of existence, you will 
sow the germs of a defect which may presently become in- 
eradicable. It is your work to oppose it. 

" When the child begins feebly to totter over the ground, 
stumbling and threatening every moment to fall, you do not 
take it in your arms ; you support it, but you allow it to walk. 
By degrees the bones are strengthened, the use of the muscles is 
learned, and the two-year-old treads firmly as the young bird flies. 

" Such a child is the pupil. As his science and experience 
grow in stature, so will many weaknesses and defects cast 
themselves off, and finally they will easily be rectified by reason 
and judgment. 

"But quickness is purely a mechanical and material process, 
which cannot be reasoned out, which cannot be analysed, which 
can be produced. 

" Feed, therefore, the fire, instead of allowing it to die out 
for want of fuel. 

"Do you think that it will suffice to say at a given moment, 
' Now do quickly what you have so long been doing elowly ' ? 

" It is a new order of ideas to which you are introducing 
your pupil. Those are fresh obstacles which you oppose to hie 


I made the fifth virtue "Regularity" a poor word for want 
of a better. You will understand by it the consensus, the 
union, of all the bodily movements, the correspondence of the 
eye with the hand, for instance, the suppleness of the wrist 
and forearm, and the co-relation of forces required. This 
is especially the mysterious gift which distinguishes the good 
shot, the billiard and quoit player, the cricketer, the trapeze 
gymnast, and others of the same category. It is born with 
man ; some have their pint, others their gallon, but few are 
wholly without it, whilst those who possess the donum dei to 
a remarkable degree at once take the highest places in their 
several pursuits. 

But though nascitur non fit, this Regularity is susceptible of 
great culture. Its development depends upon daily studies 
conducted under the careful eye of the master. The least 
tendency to assume a bad habit not those so called in the 
salles d'armes, but a habit which does not belong to the pupil's 
individuality should be pointed out, commented upon, and 
corrected. It is hardly fair to expect this amount of time and 
trouble from' the average teacher, who after a certain number 
of years must find the average pupil exceedingly flat and stale. 
But the student can, as usual in all studies, do much for 
himself ten, in fact, to Mr Professor's one. He will, as a looker- 

The Third Evening. 47 

on when others are taking the lesson, carefully note their 
defects and obtain their measure by comparing them with the 
master. He will apply these observations to himself and 
easily hit upon the way of cure. This, too, is the best treat- 
ment of tricks such as turning the toes in or out, opening the 
mouth, stiffening the fingere of the left hand, squaring the left 
elbow, and so on. But the pupil must not be too pedantic with 
himself. The right foot, for instance, by academical rule, 
should be placed straight to the front. If he learn that he 
gaine base and strength by a trifle of deviation, why should 
he not do so ? I have found it a good plan at times to practise 
before a pier-glass. 


"It is early in the evening," Lord S. said, " and I should 
much like to sco you put your practice into action." 

Willingly, replied I. As a volunteer teacher of sundry 
friends my proceeding has been as follows : For the first month 
the time required is half an hour a day, provided that there 
is nothing to unteach. Afterwards three half hours a week 
are sufficient. The earliest lessons are devoted to explaining 
and demonstrating the capital importance that resides in the 
mutual dependence and in the perfect equilibrium of the 
movements; it is, in fact, an essay on 'regularity.' I make 
my neophyte stand on guard, advance and retire, lunge and 
recover himself with aplomb and without crossing that is to 
say, placing the right foot out of line, the directing line, the 
ligne directrice, the German Oefechtslinie ; otherwise he will 
surely stumble, and perhaps fall. The defect is sometimes 
found in excellent fencers, and when chronic it cannot be 

"What is the directing line? " asked several voices. 

The perpendicular drawa from the left heel of a right- 
handed man through the heel and toes of the right foot, 
to be preserved both in guard and during the lunge. The old 
rule was to set off at right angles from the base, formed by 
the left foot. We moderns are more liberal ; some align the 
forward heel with the hollow of the other foot, and others, 
I myself included, with the ankle bone. 

The most ordinary intelligence will learn by these first lessons 
the mechanism of the various positions and actions a mechanism 
based upon the nature and instinct of our organisation. 

" Try the experiment upon Charles," Lord S. suggested. 

I would rather not. He has already, he tells me, taken 
a few lessons. I want someone who is utterly innocent of 
fence. If the Rev. Mr O'Callaghan has no objection to be 
used as a demonstration, he will be my choice. 

Mr O'Callaghan, curate and chaplain, was a born sportsman, 
although bred to a black cloth. He gave laughing assent, 

48 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

remarking, however, that he would probably be a very 
awkward example. 

I replied, Perhaps so, during the first quarter of an hour. 
Such is the common law, and none may claim immunity from 
it. Josephine herself can hardly have made grace out of the 
goose-step. Please to look at me and to place yourself on 
guard. This word alone explains the end and object of the 

To be on guard, to guard yourself, that means to assume 
the properest position for defence and its complement, offence. 
Now that the heels are parted by the proper distance, say 
two foot-lengths ; of course it differs with every man. Bend 
your knees; in other words, sit, as it were, without sitting 
down so. You must expect the position to cramp you at first, 
eo would a few miles of saddle-work after a year of walking. 
But the more you bend the spring, the greater will be the recoil, 
and the more sudden and rapid will be your movements. 

Your right arm according to the salles should be half bent, 
because over-tension of the muscles would fatigue it. After 
a time you will choose your own measure. As a general rule 
in the French echool the pommel of your sword is opposite the 
right breast, with the point to the adversary's eye. In this 
position it can most easily be brought to cover all the lines 
which require watching. Later on if you determine to be a 
swordsman you will allow the penchants and instincts of your 
organisation, the convenience of sight, for instance, to modify 
these academic dicta. The important point is to preserve the 
aplomb of the body and to use the limbs eaeily without gene or 

I now advance upon you. You naturally retire. To do 
this and to keep your distance there is only one way. You 
move back the left foot more or less, and you allow the right 
immediately to follow it. I always insist at first upon a full 
step, not a kind of shuffle backwards, as it is one of the 
beginner's difficulties. Stamp, please! It will give rhythm to 
your movement and ensure a good position. 

I now retire, and you advance upon me. It is the same 
operation, only reversed. Do not raise the foot eo high, you 
waste time ; nor yet draw it along the ground, which might 
cause a stumble. You will find advancing much easier than 
retreating. And, again, as a beginner, always stamp; it makes 
the body eit firm and motionless on the left. 

Bravo ! You move like a professor. Bend your knees 
a little more, and when you practice alone for I see that you 
will be a swordsman bend them as much as possible. The 
academic law is that the knee should be on a plumb-line with 
the instep. As regards the left leg, a string dropped from the 
hip bone should fall along the thigh, the outer knee, the lower 
leg, and the ankle bone. Few men go beyond or outside of 

The Third Evening. 49 

this imaginary perpendicular ; many inside that is to say, the 
knock-kneed fencer is more common than the bow-legged. Both 
are faults, because they take from the power and spring of 
the lunge ; but they are mostly matters of organisation, and 
cannot be altered without a damaging process. 

The rule for the body is to be bolt upright upon the haunches, 
easily and without stiffness. If, however, you feel inclined 
to bend, bend forward ; but never backward the system of 
the old French school. When the body is carried to the front 
you will often see the master lay down his foil and set the pupil 
up like a sculptured torso with both hands. This is dancing 
master's fencing. There is no harm in the forward position ; 
it does not increase exposure, because the angle which it 
assumes diminishes the area of surface, and to a certain extent 
protects itself by giving additional trouble to the adversary's 
point. It is also a sovereign remedy against low thrusts. On 
the other hand, bending backwards is an absolute defect ; it is 
ruinous to all quickness, both in attack and in riposte. Besides, 
it always exposes you to a time thrust. Do you feel tired ? 


So much the better. It shows that your position is easy 
and natural ; that the muscles are not contracted ; and that 
cramps do not paralyse your movements. You will not forget 
to keep your left shoulder well to the rear so as to show only 
a profile to the adversary. In due time you will be able to 
take ome liberties in this matter, and, indeed, there are first- 
rato fencers who show two-thirds of front ; but these are men 
whose well-trained muscles obey like lightning every order of 
the brain, and who can escape the thrust by an almost imper- 
ceptible amount of shrinking. And, remember, shoulder always 
low, and no extra strength applied to it, or you will "counter 
from the shoulder" and strike with your point the ground 
instead of the adversary. 

Such, then, is the posture of defence. Rest yourself whilst 
I pass to the offensive part. 


You might attack your adversary by running into him, 
as happened to our friend Seaton, or by a spring, a buck 
jump, like the " Turcos " in Punch, with both legs to the 
fore. I once saw an excellent swordsman surprised into 
being touched by this simian process, but the usual, nay, 
the invariable, plan is sharply to lunge that is, to shoot the 
right foot from guard some ]8in. forwards, shaving the ground, 
and simultaneously to straighten and stiffen, not to half 
straighten, as the idle apprentice often will, your left leg. Do 
not make any false movements with the right foot before you 
advance it. This is called in technical language tricher, and 

50 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

it warns the adversary of your intention. Remember the golden 
rule of the lunge two movements, not one. The first : Raise 
the right arm, depressing at the same time the left. No. 2 : 
Move the right foot and extend the left leg. If the first precede 
the second your aim will be wild. Make your pass even and 
regular, as if carrying a glass of water to your adversary's 
breast. The better to confirm the lunge, I often teach the 
demie-allonge the right arm raised as to make the pass, the 
left leg extended without further movement. 

At first you must be careful to keep the Left foot firmly on 
the ground ; it is apt to turn and to drag an inch or two 
forwards, which, besides having a slovenly look, alters your 
distance without your being aware of it. When lunging, rest 
upon the major arch of the left foot, formed by the heel and 
the cushion behind the big toe. This firm base gives immobility 
to the left leg, which is apt to be shaken by the vigorous 
tension of the bow. The cap of the right knee bone must be 
perpendicular to the instep, or, if you prefer it, to the toe-tip, 
as the schools direct. 

Whether your attack be simple or compound, ever remember 
what I here repeat : The movement of point and hand, together 
with the extension and elevation of the arm, must precede, 
though almost imperceptibly, the action of the body and the 
legs. This is an invariable rule. If your lower limbs begin the 
move you lose equilibrium; your lunge will give notice to the 
adversary, and your point will wander from the mark. Great 
fencers sometimes reverse the process by way of tour de force. 

The point in the French school should be lanced out, as it 
were, and be withdrawn instantly, like the cat's claws. And 
do not forget that the " recovery," the return to guard, must 
be as prompt and sudden as the lunge. You have failed in your 
swoop ; like the hawk, you are in a position of the greatest 
danger from the hern, and the sooner you retire from it the 
better. Nothing can be worse than a slow and "dawdling" 
retreat, which encourages the enemy to attack you whilst in 
disorder by what is technically called a riposte en temps perdu. 

Every salle d'armes will show you men who are fond of 
remaining at the lunge, trying the dangerous and objectionable 
thrust called remise de main, which, except under certain well- 
defined circumstances, is permissible only to great artists 
feinting at close quarters and engaging in la bourrache, 
poignarding the adversary, and displaying what I call the 
pugilism of the sword. The whole process is thoroughly out 
of character. The attack should consist simply of a rapid 
lunge and an immediate return to guard. 

So much for the offensive part of the process. Mr 
O'Callaghan, I am greatly obliged to you. Do not forget my 

" I would ask a question," Charles said. " Is it necessary 

The Third Evening. 51 

when on guard, gracefully to curve that left arm and to lower 
it when lungeing like a mill-sail along the left thigh? " 

There is no necessity, but in both schools, Italian and 
French, the left arm acts as a counterpoise; it is the rope 
dancer's balance pole, it gives equilibrium to the movements, 
and it introduces symmetry and equality in the action of the 
two limbs. You must do something with your left arm, and 
it seems hardly natural that it should hang down dead by the 
side or be carried " a-kimbo," when it becomes mere dead 
weight. If you reflect you will probably find the French style 
best. I have described the Hispano-Neapolitan posture the 
left hand opposite the pectoral muscles. This may be con- 
sidered obsolete now that the dagger is not used. Au reste, not 
a few wear the left arm with the hand on the hip, and the 
German sabreur often places it behind his back. Do with it 
what you please, only do not put it in any position which may 
bring the left shoulder forwards and offer more body to the 
adversary's sword. I never quarrel with my pupils, except 
when idleness or carelessness is shown in neglecting the left 
arm, and as a thing of beauty is a joy for ever, and beauty, 
like poetry, is " Nature's brag," I do not allow the elbow to be 
angular or the fingers to project like those of a Mandarin upon 
a tea caddy. Grace is the truth of action, want of grace its 

As you may imagine, these simple movements can be 
modified in a variety of ways. For instance, instead of the 
common return to guard by the right leg, the left may be 
brought up ; this is, however, confessedly dangerous. Then 
there is the inverted lunge with the left foot, called se fendre en 
arribre, and there is much to say about it. Again, the body 
may be suddenly thrown backwards in guard, which places it 
out of measure, beyond reach of the point. When advancing, 
the left foot may furtively be brought close to the right so as 
to double the length of the lunge. You will see these and many 
other tricks done in the fencing schools, sometimes even in the 
field, by gentlemen who are " renowning it." But the fatal 
objection to them is that they are not generally adopted, 
showing that they are not generally valuable. 


I have now made you as wise as myself upon the subject of 
moving the body and the limbs, which indeed is all the 
mechanism of swordsmanship. A few words before we separate. 

Why have these positions and these movements been chosen, 
been universally approved of by the civilised world ? The reply 
is because they are intuitive and instinctive. See how the races 
that use the knife naturally seize it with the right hand, drape 
the cloak round the left arm, and, under cover of the body, 
prepare the weapon for a fatal thrust 

52 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

" I'm certain," Shughtie said, " that they are wrong. Have 
the cloak if you like, it may always be useful, but hold your 
bowie-point to the fore as if it were a sword. Why, man, 
you've quoted Achille Marozzo, and already you forget hie 
principles. There are two common ways of using the knife 
underhand and overhand. Underhand is rare, being easily 
stopped ; overhand, if you treat it as I would, may be received 
upon the point. An acquaintance of mine had a third way, 
which was not without its merits. He rejoiced in the sobriquet 
of ' Flat-footed Jack,' being, or rather having been, one of 
Her Gracious Majesty's hard naval bargains. The Argentine 
gargotti's not a bad place for knife practice. The Flat-footed 
in his cups would quarrel with hie own hat ; hence many a 
difficulty. When cuchillos are drawn Senor Spaniard, old or 
new hemisphere, hae a silly habit of showing off. The world 
must see the curved beauties of his deadly blade. It's like the 
Tartar prince, who by herald informs the kings of the earth 
that they may dine, as he has finished his meal of mare's milk. 
And it's quite unlike the sensible Japanese, who, holding the 
scabbard in the left hand, draws hie sword with so little loss 
of time that he opens his man from belt to shoulder." 

A very old manoeuvre of the Italian and German schools, 
I interposed. 

" Well," resumed Shughtie, " while the particular Don was 
intent upon his gambado, Flat-footed Jack suddenly let fly at 
him a perfectly straight thrust with a common whittle some 
6in. long, and worth when new 4d. He was only careful to 
put his thumb along the bone handle. Of course, every blow 
killed. I should be afraid to name the number of our 
countryman's triumphs." 

This wae a long speech for Shughtie. I knew that he would 
not readily do it again, and resumed. 

Such, then, is the rule of the sword we will drop the knife- 
and it is based upon nature and truth, upon practice and experi- 

And what, you ask, is its proper object? 

In the defensive position of guard to allow Ihe limbs their 
fullest liberty of action and to cultivate as much as possible the 
ease and the elasticity which reside in them. 

In the offensive action the opposite is required; here we must 
develop and utilise all the power and the momentum, the vigour, 
weight, and speed of which the body is capable. 

I seem to be talking mere truisms " the truths of M. de la 
Polisse." But you see a master in every school daily and hourly 
protesting against the awkw r ardness of his pupils' guards, against 
the clenching of the hand, the tension of the arm, the stiffness 
of the shoulder, in fact the wilful and sinful expenditure of 
force, without once explaining to them, so clearly that they 
never can forget it, the essential difference between the com- 

The Third Evening. 53 

plete repose of the guard and the vivid muscular action of the 

To show how natural is our position, attempt in any manner to 
change it. There are many ways, but all will equally fail. Take 
one for instance, and stand up, like the old Spaniard, with knees 
unbent. This at once throws the whole machine out of gear; 
you cannot without great difficulty perform the simplest move- 
ment of attack, defence, or retreat. The body has lost its 
aplomb; it can no longer make sure of hand and arm; it insists 
upon devancing them or upon lagging tardily behind. See how 
slight a change causes the virtue to depart from you. 

The houghs, the popliteal muscles, are the two springs which 
project the body and which, properly managed, give it rapidity 
of motion. When you clear a fence or a ditch you imitate the 
grasshopper, not to mention the more lively animal that can 
hop over its own St. Paul's. When you drop from a wall or 
make a low jump you also bend the houghs to prepare for the 
feet touching the ground, otherwise you suffer from the jarring 
shock. How many men have been injured and even killed by 
suddenly stepping into a hatchway imprudently left open? If 
prepared they could have managed without difficulty twice or 
three times the amount of fall. 

I insist upon these facts, which are the axioms, the ground- 
work of our science. My pupils are always taught their absolute 
necessity and their relations as cause and effect, or, if you please, 
sequence, consequence, concatenation. Upon this point 

" Eleven-forty p.m. ! " Shughtie briefly ejaculated. 

I will only say that instinct has here been our earliest guide, 
and that experience has tended to explain and consecrate the 
principles. But I add : 

When sufficient practice shall have made these movements 
familiar to you, when you feel the ease and rapidity which 
result from them, and when you are conscious that they have 
given, with the patience of assured strength, a new life to your 
thews and sinews, then you have a right to venture upon certain 
modifications. If, after careful comparison and many experi- 
ments, you find that your individuality craves for departure from 
the beaten path of elementary rule, do so without fear, but do 
so with judgment. The best guard and the best lunge are 
those which allow body and limb to act with the fulness of free- 
dom, preserving at the same time a perfect equilibrium. Pos- 
sibly some peculiarity of conformation a very long arm, for 
instance, or a remarkably short leg may suggest important 
changes. But remember that the margin of deviation is not 
large; it is a narrow path, and a precipice yawns on both sides. 
Bear in mind that all excess is more or less faulty, especially 
when it declines from grace and beauty. 

And I confess to disliking a rugged or grotesque fencer, 
although his thrusts may tell and his parries do their duty. A 
thoroughly well formed and set up physique of course, when in 

D 2 

54 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

youth and health must be " elegant" yasscz moi Ic mot. If not 
there is some fatal defect which tailor or dressmaker has suc- 
ceeded in concealing from all eyes but those of the physiologist. 
Sur ce, messieurs, bonne nuit ! 


IT was easy to see from the first aspect of the smoking- 
room that it was again to be a soiree, when pipes would 
predominate. The first half hour was passed, naturally 
enough, in talking over the events of the day. What added 
animation to the dialogue was the fact that one elderly gentle- 
man, a visitor from town, evidently considered himself half 
shot in consequence of a country friend having fired across him. 
When giving my reasons for not joining in the English battue, I 
forgot to mention the chance of losing an eye or the use of an 
ear. So, before the days of the iron horse in India, a friend 
accounted to me for his longevity by the fact that he had never 
been exposed to railway travel. His idea suggested the man 
who refused to take such hot and rebellious liquors in his blood 
as tea and coffee, but never refused whisky, toddy, or ioed 


Invited to "address the assembly," I lit my weed and spoke 
as follows : 

We will continue, O Signori, the mode of instruction whose 
first page only is known to you that is, to most of you. I 
enter, it will be observed, into the minutest details, without 
which, in fact, you might as well consult a treatise. 

My pupil I regret that the Reverend Mr O'Callaghan is 
not here already knows the different positions of the body, 
and has practically learned to appreciate the results to which 
their use leads. 

During the very next seance I would put a foil in, his hand 
always supposing that his intelligence equalled that of the 
average Church militant and teach him the thrusts and the 
simple parries. Every day's work would be divided into three 
sections, each of eight to ten and even fifteen minutes, and later 
on I should even allow the patient to sit down before this term 
has elapsed. In the fencing schools you see men who think they 
are " blown " after a third of the time. The best fencers 
always save themselves during the assault before they become 
thoroughly tired, and the play becomes wild ; the re,pose of the 
guard, properly understood, gives great relief, and allows much 
longer continuance of exertion. 

" Would you give your half hour at once, or separate it by 
long intervals? " asked Shughtie. "I'm certain that the latter 

The Fourth Evening. 55 

is the best plan when learning the elements of a language a 
pure work of memory. A man who labours two or three 
successive hours at his vocabulary is to me like a school lad of 
eight, who studies throughout a third of the day." 

Your rule is good for languages, and you have founded it 
upon the best of reasons ; but swordsmanship has little to work 
the memory. My practice is never to let the pupil go on 
fencing when I see that he is fatigued. But I also never let 
him sit down till he requires rest. The thrusts and simple 
parries are, I venture to remind you, 

Straight thrusts, 

Disengagements and cuts over (counts) in tierce and in carte, 

Parries in tierce and in carte, 

Circles and demicircles. 

The passes develop the regularity of bodily action, the parries 
give force and suppleness to the wrist. You must be careful, 
however, not to depend only upon the wrist ; in the circles 
especially there should always be a slight rotatory motion of 
the elbow. In fact, you should feel that you have an elbow. A 
man in perfect health never feels that he has anything ; we 
recognise our limbs only when there is something unsound 
about them. 

I make my acolyte advance and retire till he finds it easy 
as walking, skating, or waltzing. From his debut I demand 
from him the utmost vivacitj 7 of movement and rapidity of 
execution. It must always be well understood that slowness is 
the one sin which cannot be endured ; it is the implacable enemy 
of anything like excellence; it is the infdme which must be 
crushed. The best way to punish a lazy lunge or a " dawdling " 
recovery is a stiff thrust in the lower ribs, with the hand low, 
so as not to allow the blade to bend. This should be repeated 
each time the fault occurs. Whatever the professors may say 
and they all say the same thing ! I prize exact regularity far 
less than rapidity of execution, and I strongly object, except in 
special matters, to what is called "decomposing the move- 
ments." My object is to make even the first lessons so lively, 
so emotional, that the learner has not time for the ennui which 
attends the beginning of studies. It is, of course, necessary to 
point out the rocks upon which he may dash, and to save him 
from the wildness and extravagance of movements which must 
accompany unskilled quickness. 

I would be more urgent upon this point of rapid execution 
amongst Englishmen than amongst Frenchmen ^or Italians, 
because a certain ponderousness of movement, " the stately 
lounge of the English gentleman," slowness decorated with the 
Order of the Garter, has become an insipid national boast, a 
Dundreary manner of superiority. I accustom my pupil to 
spare himself when tired, by relapsing into the repose of the 
"uard so as to be better prepared for rapid action when r< 

D 3 

56 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

quired, and, above all things, I never speak to the intelligence 
at the cost of bodily activity. 

Then I pass to the parries and compound attacks. I have 
named them to you, and you will know both how they are 
composed and how few they are. 

And here allow me to remind you once more that the modern 
or natural system has introduced an important simplification in 
what used greatly to " exercise " pupils and retard the quick- 
ness of their movements. The old method made the hand, in 
tierce, as in prime and scconde, turn the knuckles up and the 
nails down, whilst carte reversed the operation. These move- 
ments appear to us mere complications, the inevitable effect of 
the maitre d'armcs. We now make the same position serve for 
both, only remembering to offer more opposition to the opposing 
blade. We never turn the hand in the style of our fathers, 
except when we would master and force through the enemy's 
guard by a kind of dagger thrust. You will bear this in mind, 
I especially when fencing with a left-handed man. If you 
attack him in carte, you run your head against his wall ; always 
attempt him by his feeble side tierce. 

" I dislike the change very much," cried Seaton, who 
appeared this evening a trifle more excited than usual. " You 
take away one of the beauties of the guards. This is another 
step from the simple to the silly. Such levelling doctrines may 
tend to make all men equal before the sword. I can't say that 
they suit me." 

"I hope," suggested Shughtie quite gravely, "that you are 
not doing to swordsmanship what the Japanese propose to do 
with English to reduce everything irregular to the regular ; to 
say, for instance, ' I catch, I catched, I was catched,' et hoc 
genus omne. I'm sure that irregularities, like exceptions, are 
the most piquant beauties of language, especially of ours." 

Your dislike, O Seaton, is an affair of sentiment. The change 
has been made, and has been accepted. 

To resume. The counters, the double counters, and the turns 
of the sword are the most useful of exercises, because they 
work, or, as the French say, they " break," the wrist in all 
directions, giving it at once suppleness and strength. I would 
also remind you that, though carte is the easiest and the most 
natural parry, the contre de quarte, from left to right, is far 
more difficult, because it requires more opposition than the 
contre de tierce, consequently it demands much longer practice. 
I should advise the aspiring swordsman to give it five minutes 
to one of the other. In the former the muscles seem to act 
against the grain, in the latter they play naturally. This is 
not the case, but we are more accustomed to draw the arms 
towards the body than to the reverse movement. 

At the end of the lesson I call the serious attention of my 
pupil to the faults which each half hour has developed. I 

The Fourth Evening. 57 

show him whence they arise, the dangers to which they must 
inevitably lead, and the easiest method of present cure and 
future prevention. He may then practise alone if he pleases 
and bring me his results. 

If, for instance, he inclines, as many do, towards the irre- 
gular practice of suddenly dropping the hand or of drawing 
back the arm, as for a stab, I should make him attack and 
ripost in the high lines, even in the heights of the classicists, 
until his wrist is forced to acquire a certain amount of eleva- 
tion, and vice versa. The perfect swordsman may, it is true,^ 
take such liberties with his art as the poet introduces a hiatus, 
the musician a discord. These blemishes in places become 
beauties, but the greater the artist the more prudently he will 
use them. 

And, in the matter of the high right hand, held above the 
head, French pedantry has done its worst. The old position 
of the Italian, or, rather, the Neapolitan, lunge was on a plane 
with the right shoulder. The " mixed school," again, trims 
between the two. Every French maitre d'armes will insist upon 
what he calls " elevation," as if it were a sine qua non in good 
fencing. Ask him why ? Because with a low hand you expose 
the upper part of the body. Tell him, with my compliments, 
that you do nothing of the kind. 


Here, then, is the whole of the lesson which has been made 
such a bugbear to the uninitiated. 

" I saw," Shughtie said, quoting the Arab proverb, " a 
monster from afar ; nearer it became a man, and presently 
I found it to be my brother." 

Yet professors still lose themselves in a dsedalus of attacks, 
parries, and riposts, through which nothing but the Ariadne's 
clue of lifelong labour can guide the unhappy wanderer. Go 
to any continental fencing school of the old style, and you will 
find the more advanced pupile passing through a half-hour's 
course of combinations, mere trials of ingenuity, simple 
multiplications for the purposes of multiplication, of which a 
tithe is never used in the assault, nor a fifth in actual combat. 
The master will tell you that they have their merits, and this 
is true to a limited extent. " Hop-scotch " may do some good 
to the embryo opera dancer. But the serious disadvantage is 
that they leave no time for repeated practice of the small 
number which is really wanted, and in which I try to perfect 
my pupils. One of the most successful sportsmen with big and 
dangerous game ever known to me used to work with steel- 
tipped bullets at fifty paces, never farther, and for good reason, 
till he was certain of a shilling. And you will know who wins 
at billiards not the man who now and then makes a brilliant 
stroke that delights the gallery, but he who never misses an 

58 The Sentiment of the Swnrd. 

ordinary pocket and cannon. Moreover, a very limited number 
of movements greatly facilitates their execution to the beginner 
and sinks deep in the matter of his mind. When he has passed 
into the advanced stage he may please himself, and even win 
the praise of the world by the variety and the mobility of his 
play. It is enough for me to eee that my pupil understands 
thoroughly what he does, and that his hand becomes the faith- 
ful echo of his thought. The young idea so taught cannot fail 
to shoot straight and to shoot far. 

We now approach another section of my subject, upon which 
I am in complete disaccord with almost every teacher and every 
treatise. The latter will not even reason with the pupil 
during the first month, and actually refuse to teach him the 
names of tierce and carte, lest, like the recruit, he should 
confound hie right hand with his left, and the idea of anything 
beyond the plastron lesson seems to give them the horrors. One 
well-known Traite (La Boessiere's) gives fifty-four lessons before 
coming to the loose fencing, and, supposing that each takes a 
week to master, you end the year. We are, even so, warned 
against the faults arising from des lemons trop precipitecs. The 
Frenchman is not the only one who has written a chapter 
" upon the danger of premature assaults " anglice, of fencing 
loose too eoon. Briefly, I begin my pupils within a month or 
six weeks. 

Seaton had sniffed the fray from afar; hence probably the 
unusual restlessness which had been remarked. 

" I expected this hideous heresy ! " he cried. " More than 
once I've seen it come and pass, by. In my day we were taught 
to believe that the professor who even allows, much more who 
encourages, loose fencing in beginners destroys a career. It's 
the worst form of condescension, to use a dainty word. It 
spoils good gifts; it wastes preliminary studies; it stands in 
the way of all progress. Are you speaking in parables, Sir? 
Or, perchance you are qualifying for a line in the Budget of 
Paradoxes? After a dozen riding lessons you do not send a 
boy to play polo, or to dance a quadrille t\ie week after he 
puts on his first skates, do you ? And what did you yourself 
say about the bravura song and the practice of painting, of art 
in general? You should be sent as consul to Trieste, or any 
other place of discipline, before you've thoroughly corrupted 
the youth of this unhappy land ! " 

A noble rage had made him forcible, facetious, prophetical. 

Du calme, I suggested. Let us avoid attributing evil motives 
and forecasting highly unpleasant contingencies. 

Permit me to resume my sentiment in very few words. I 
do not allow my pupil to fence loose before he knows tierce and 
carte, but with me he learns them easily. I do not cram him 
without consulting his intelligence ; and I do not as you do 
keep him back when he longs to go forward. My system 

The Fourth Evening. 59 

introduces him to the assault as quickly as possible, yours as 
slowly. That is the main difference. 

I am at war with you to the knife upon this point, having 
suffered much and long from what I will take the liberty to 
call a prejudice. In mere childhood two brothers used to hide 
themselves in the garden and fence loose because the masks 
were locked up. One suffered severely from a thrust in the 
palate, and this would not have taken place, my Seaton, had 
not the master been of your school shall I say your form ? 

" You both deserved a good flogging, and so ends that 
matter !." was the natural rejoinder. 

But to speak more seriously. I find the professional opinion 
utterly inapplicable, even to those who would study arms 
professionally, and who by obstinate toil would rise to the 
heights of our difficult art. How much less, then, can I apply 
it to the generality of men for whom a modicum of skill 
suffices ? 

Masters, especially masters after a certain age, will not, or 
rather cannot, comprehend this. They look back through the 
mist of years at the long life journey which it has been theirs 
to make. They see in the dim and fading vista the boy with 
bis little foil, the lad, the youth, the adolescent, and the man 
always, ever, foil in hand. They exaggerate the difficulties of 
beginning an art whose end they have reached. It eeems 
monstrous to them that a pupil of yesterday should venture, 
as it were, to attack them. See the nervousness with which the 
grey-headed clerk allows the young quill-driver to make his 
first entry in that awful ledger. You, John Shughtie, do you 
not feel a certain softness of heart when some Orientalist in 
embryo, and just out of jacket, brings you his Arabic alphabet 
and begs you to bind him upon that fiery gridiron? If you 
do not, I do. 

Thus, observe, I well understand what lies at the poor 
maiire's heart, and what obscures his understanding. Senti- 
mentally he is right; log'cally he is wrong. And there is still 
a something eating at his feelings. In ail the fine arts, as in 
literature, a man leaves, or may leave, traces behind him; the 
pictures and statues survive the painter and statuary ; the poet 
bequeaths to posterity his poem ; the musician his music. But 
it is not so in the personal, corporeal exercises, such as equita- 
tion, dancing, singing, acting, and fencing. These exist only 
in the memory of contemporaries, and, whatever be the excel- 
lence of the expert, a name, and nothing but a name, floats 
down the stream of time. 

The science of arms by which, of course, I mean the 
methodical knowledge of the small sword is subject more than 
any other to different appreciations, and especially to divers 
degrees of study and proficiency. 

Are you sure then, MM. the professors, that these "premature 

60 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

assaults," as you agree to term them, exercise such pernicious 
effects and sow the seeds of so many faults? Right or wrong, I 
persist in thinking that if they do harm, the harm comes from 
you, the masters. And it is my conviction that, properly directed, 
they do good. 

Excuse me if I quote my own case. After months and some- 
times yearsi of exile, when my sword-iplay has been confined to 
a bout at broadswords with a capering Hindu or to a trial of 
singlestick with a muck-running Malay, it has been my fate to 
return to this world. Religiously, each time, I begin the lesson 
and the mur, which is le fond et la base dcs armes, like a little 
child, and shun the temptations of the assault for a month or so, 
till right and left hand have remembered their former cunning. 
But there is some moral courage in this process, se remettre aux 
armes, as the French say ; do not doubt it. The dreariness of 
the leqon reminds me of that one road in some Brazilian town 
which the necessity of walking exercise compelled me conscien- 
tiously to tread day after day, and it requires no little perseverance 
to persist in the constitutional when you know the face of every 
rut and the form of every pebble upon your beat. And why 
should I expect the average man to do what is irksome even to 
the old practised hand ? 

In short, I make no difficulty about indulging my pupil as 
soon as possible. All vary in capacity for work and in capability 
of progress. But as a rule, after a month, more or less, of regu- 
lar study, when my acolyte has learned to understand the small 
number of movements which have been described to you, and 
when he executes them with vivacity and relative regularity 
why, I put on my mask and plastron, and bid him come on and 
do his best. As the ladies are not here I may confide to you 
that acolytes of that "persuasion" have sometimes insisted upon 
attacking me within the week, and have shown themselves aught 
but grateful indeed, most recalcitrant, almost threatening to 
call me out when debarred of such enjoyment. This is the 
bravura song without knowing the scales. 


I need hardly say that we must expect the first attempts 
at loose fencing to be loose indeed, awkward as are all the 
early efforts of an intelligence which has just freed itself from the 
shell. It will be a rudimental affair, faulty, and full of extremes, 
not, unfrequently grotesque, violent, or feeble. But why is the 
master there except to set matters right? And what is the use 
of the lesson, unless it gives the opportunity of so doing? 

Moreover, one advantage must not be concealed. The pupil 
has been left to himself- -not Scottice, I hope; he has been 
released from the trammels of a system; he has come out in his 
own and proper colours. If the mzitre d' armes deserve the name 
he will carefully note the germs of future gifts and defects for 

The Fourth Evening, 61 

encouragement and correction. He will hardly learn this so well 
from the behaviour of the acolyte under the lesson. 

Our rude beginner, like the young bird trying its wings, sets 
out clumsily upon his first journey ; still, he has started in life. 
Already he shows what part of the lesson has become part of 
himself and what portion has been thrown aside as lumber ; 
we observe that this thrust is of his predilection, that parry is 
only troublesome to him His individuality appears, rash or 
prudent, slow or petulant, steadfast or wavering. You are study- 
ing his instincts, his character, which he does not dream of con- 
cealing, and which, perhaps, he could not conceal if he would. 

Let me quote a great master and a distinguished amateur 
upon this subject : 

" Les effets de 1'eserime donnent lieu aux plus curieuses observa- 
tions. Buffon a dit (by the by, he did not) (1) ' Le style c'est 
1'homme.' On pourrait presque dire aussi qu'en escrime ' le 
jeu c'est 1'homme.' Le caractere s'y revele tout entier franchise 
ou mauvaise foi, nonchalance ou activite, timidite ou audace, 
orgueil ou modestie, finesse, astuce, ruse, en un mot, toutes les 
nuances du caractere, meme les plus faibles, se font jour au 
milieu des peripeties de la lutte. . . . 

" L'escrime a aussi sa moralite. La lutte des amours propres 
n'est pas moins vive que la lutte materielle des epees, et les 
caracteres se modifient, en bien et era mal, a ce contact et a ce 
frottement. Sous 1' empire de la sur-excitation nerveuse produite 
par les exercises violents, 1' esprit oublie souvent la politesse 
apprise et accoutumee : les gens bien eleves restent toujours 
convenables sans doute, mais eux-memes subissent 1' influence de 
ces courants passionnes. Les defauts de chacun deviennent beau- 
coup plus apparents. Le moraliste et I'observateur, qui n'ont 
vu au dehors que des gens revetis d'un vernis uniforme les 
trouvent la transformes : plus beaux, plus grands, plus petits, 
ou plus laids ; tels qu'ils sont reellement. Les uns, domines par 
un'j sorte de furia irreflechie, se precipitent en aveugles sur la 
lame immobile du tireur qui leur est oppose ; d'autres, calmes, 
moderes, pleins d'une ardeur reflechie mais inebranlable, ne don- 

(1) What Buffon did say was Le style c'est de 1'homme meme. But 
he is generally misquoted even by leading French writers, and I 
cannot but think that the constant adoption of th's mis- version by 
Buffon's own countrymen shows either that tl:ere is very little 
difference in meaning l>etween the two versions, or that the mis- 
quotation corresponds more clearly to the right definition in the 
minds of those best able to judge. Some of the editions suppress the 
de from the passage in Buffon's Discours de reception a I'Academie. 
and thus, according to some critics, make Buffon say exactly the 
opposite of what he intended, viz., that what is a man's own in 
his writing is the "order a>nd the movement which he puts into 
his thoughts." All the rest may be borrowed, but this lucidus ordo 
or style is the man's own. (See Vapereau's Dictionnaire universelle des 
Litii'-ra lures; art. Buffon.) 

62 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

nont, ricn au hazard, rcchcrchant pour les dejouer les projets <1" 
leur adversaire, les devinant parfois a 1'aide d'uncalcul intelli- 
gent, souvent par une sorte d'intuition qui est le privilege des 
vrais tireurs." 

And the pupil's gain is this. No amount of plastroning will 
do for him what that quarter of an hour has done. He 
sees now what he is learning ; he at once appreciates 
the benefits of judgment, of regularity, and of quickness; 
he feels the thrill of emulation, the joys of victory, 
the griefs of defeat ; he knows that instead of grinding on 
in his dull round he is moving forward. And dimly he realises 
the presence of that Unforeseen which falls as a shadow upon 
every pace of his path, whilst he recognises the necessity of train- 
ing his mind to meet it like a man and a swordsman. 

" We are not approaching the Sublime and Beautiful, I hope," 
said that most practical Shughtie. 

The assault is, in fact, I continued, disdaining his sneer, the 
lesson by the side of the lesson, and no one can doubt that it 
is a most beneficial change. 

For what do the Arabs say? "The lecture is one; the talk 
about the lecture" (that is practice) " is a thousand." 


" Do you know," asked Lord B. with a smile, " that you are 
not only a heretic, that you are a downright infidel?" 

Certainly, as regards these old and obsolete traditions. And so, 
allow me modestly to observe, was the mighty Bacon. I once 
heard of an Anglo-Indian officer who, having read for the first 
time a translation of the Novum Oryanum in Persian, asked who 
could be the impertinent fellow who had dared to fall foul of 
" Aristu," as he called Aristotle. But in my turn allow me to 
question you. Must not the right always begin with one man? 
Do you find anything wrong in my reasoning? 

" I cannot say that I do." 

Have you not felt all this yourself, and do you not believe that 
the protracted lesson adds another sting to the bitterness of 
beginning, causes the Art of Arms to look irksome, which is worse 
than terrible ? 

" You must not make Captain Seaton consider me your abettor 
in Radicalism.'' 

" Communism ! " ejaculated that officer with sententious 


Permit me to borrow an anecdote from the brilliant but 
discursive pages of one who thinks as I do (2). 

" In a series of witty and humorous articles, M. Desbarolles, 
one of the most artistic and life-full natures that ever belonged 

(2) Viz., Hazanfourt (c/. Clay's translation, p. 67). 

The Fourth Evening. 63 

to my acquaintance, recounts how, after having studied the sword 
with a French maitre d'armcs, in Germany I believe, he returned 
to Paris. There he at once repaired to the salon of perhaps the 
most celebrated professor of his day, M. Charlemagne (3), to 
whom he brought letters of introduction. As usual, the rooms 
were crowded with amateur sommitcs. 

M. Desbarolles was politely asked to take a foil and provided 
with a vis-a-vis. He went through the assault in presence of the 
great man, and, having acquitted himself, as he supposed, in 
superior style, he quietly awaited the compliments his due. 

" ' Sir,' said the authority, ' will you permit me in virtue of my 
age to offer you a word of advice?' 

" 'Certainly; I shall be grateful.' 

" ' Very well ! Work at the plastron for a whole twelve months 
before you allow yourself a single assault.' 

" M. Desbarolles pleasantly describes the shock of revulsed 
feeling which these words caused, but he adds the counsel 
appeared sincere and possibly good ; he followed it, and he never 
found cause for repentance. 

" I should have hoped from him more originality than to 
have taken such advice au pied de la lettre ; and in all cases 
I affirm that the process itself only _delayed the great artist in 
becoming the admirable swordsman he was known to be." 

Captain Seaton will probably urge against me something as 
follows : 

You own that for the assault you want suppleness of wrist, 
quickness of execution, activity of body, and presence of mind. 
Well, then, you will learnt them best under the hands and by 
the lessons of an able preceptor. He has only to measure out 
his instructions according as you require them, and, above all 
things, not permit you to lun before you can walk. 

" Don't appeal to me," said the person alluded to. " For the 
sake of saving time and trouble, I here join issue with you 
upon your opinions, private and public, one and all." 

Fortified by this assurance, I shall take the liberty of thus 
replying to Captain Seaton, or rather to my own idea of 
Captain Seaton : 

Thanks for your generosity ! I want bread, and you give me 
boiled rice. Gramercy for your offer of factitious energy ; of 
quickness by word of command ; of merging my individuality 
into another's; of pinning my faith upon the verba magistri. 
Truly I shall go far by this training of an intelligence, which 
is unerring only because it walks in leading strings under the 

(3) Charlemagne, b. 1759. d. 1857, was professor of fencing in Paris 
from 1815 to 1841. His portrait, showing a certain resemblance to 
T.amartine, is given in L'Escrime Franchise (July 5, 1889). 

64 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

master's hand, and it depends upon the indications, always 
just, always true, of his sword. It will be a pleasure to 
resemble the man who, safe in his swimming belt, peacefully 
studies his own movements, his specific gravity, his style and 
form of swimming, caring little for the fact that if you remove 
the corks he would at once disappear under the waves. 

Far from me to deny that the plastron takes an important 
part in forming a fencer. It gives all the mechanism of 
material execution. But our friend Plastron claims to be so 
high and puissant a seigneur that his flag must precede all 
others, that his rights are universal, and that he may trespass 
with impunity upon the estates of his neighbours. 

What we reply to him is once for all. You are base, being 
mechanical ; your very intelligence is that of a calculating 
machine. What you have never done, cannot do, never will do, 
is to nerve heavy heart and brain against that King of Terrors, 
the Unknown, that spectre which, omnipresent and Protean in 
form, often melts away with its cold breath the most beautiful 
theories and the wisest combinations of mankind. 

" Are you haunted by L'Imprevu? Is it your Fylgja or 
following spirit?" asked Shughtie. "Surely it's not fair to 
call up one ghost twice in a single evening ! " 

Whereas the assault is for the sword what to a young man 
first entering life are light and air and rich horizon, and jour- 
neys promising the excitement and the adventures for which 
his soul has long sighed. It calls upon him to bring his 
personality to the front, to inspire himself with his own 
individuality ; in a word, to be himself, and not to recite page 
after page from the dulled lessons of others. 

And yet out of deference to my friends I say this much for 
the plastron. Most fencing masters neglect one of its most 
important uses. Ag soon as the pupils have made a modicum 
of progress towards the necessary regularity, let each in his 
turn put on the leather jacket and give the lesson to his 
fellows. It will teach them tolerance for those who are feebler 
than themselves. I presume the fencing schools neglect this 
useful practice because it is wasting time, and because the 
parents who have paid the master expect all the teaching to 
come from him. It is wonderful how a few hours of giving 
lessons will fix the mechanism of fencing in your memory. I 
can compare it only with writing, which makes a man exact, 
after he has filled himself by reading a language. 

"Yes," said Charles, "and there is at Oxford a sharp- 
witted undergrad they say there always is one who has made 
that system pay. His college tutor advised him to take a 
private coach, and so he took a private pupil." 

At any rate, in the fencing salon, rive the Lancastrian 
system for ever ! I have only one caution for the young master, 
which, indeed, is often equally necessary to the old master. 

The Fourth Evening. 65 

Avoid advancing the chest to receive the thrust : it is injurious, 
because it trains the eye to errors of distance. 


The smoking-room showed a positive unwillingness to agree 
with me. Possibly Seaton, having long been the only authority 
upon the subject, had succeeded in inoculating the hearers 
with his ideas. I had spoken quite enough about the assault 
indeed, far more than would have been necessary elsewhere yet, 
in view of the said mute opposition offered to my favourite 
theory, I determined not to spare a single detail. 

Perhaps you will find this iteration well, unpleasant, and 
this presenting every facet and angle of the question the reverse 
of amusing. But my object is amiable; I would imbue your 
thoughts with that conviction which is in mine, and I would 
induce even the most obdurate to try the question fairly in his 

Seaton only fixed his eyes upon me. He reminded me of 
another Anglo-Indian friend whose characteristic was combative- 
ness and whose chief mental pabulum was contradiction. I was 
momentarily puzzled to know what he would do when a bad 
sore throat arrested the action of his vocal chords. He looked at 
me and nodded that was enough. 

If you knew, I continued, how many striking instances of 
my assertion being true have passed before me ! Hardly a 
fencing school in a great European city but presents the 
edifying spectacle of several advanced scholars still working at 
the plastron. It is a pleasure to see these gracile youths courting 
the warlike goddess ; they are universally pronounced to be 
superbcs. They have balance of body, elasticity of limb, accuracy 
of hand; all is in the highest state of training. They follow 
the professor's blade through a learned series of feints and 
counter-feints, attacks and demi-attacks, parades trompees, 
ripostes and contre-ripostes. Not a fault, not a deviation from 
line ! They are walking treatises of the Art, which their master, 
justly vain, turns over for you to admire. 

But when it comes to the real struggle, the lively image of 
war, these scholars are no longer the same. Their superiority in 
the lesson degenerates in the assault. Their mechanical dexterity, 
no longer having the same base, the accustomed point de depart, 
is paralysed. They know too much and they do not know 

For the assault is no longer the lesson. The adverse blade no 
more presents itself with the precision to which the scholar is 
accustomed ; the contact of the swords has not that delicacy 
which was reflected in the pupil. Consequently he is in popular 
parlance " all abroad." He vainly seeks the regular graduation 
of passes and parries so long familiar to him ; he finds here well- 
organised attacks, there extravagant movements, while in fact ho 
is quite unprepared for either the one or the other. 

66 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

Instead of the straight macadam, the king's high road, along 
which the scholar was wont luxuriously to roll, he suddenly 
debouches upon a goat path, narrow, rough, stony, and often so 
obscure that he must grope his way without self-confidence to 
support his steps. Yet perhaps even in the assault the " plas- 
trooncr " is correct and graceful by mere force of habit. He 
must, however, despite his science and his abilities, which have 
in certain points been over-cultivated, expect frequent defeats 
at the hands of many a less erudite swordsman, the tircur malin 
trained to the habit of combat, accustomed to face its peripcties, 
and familiar with that strange tongue which speaks equally well 
the idiom of every individuality. 

These remarks have been made by everyone familiar with the 
sallcs d'armcs, though men are often too indolent or incurious 
to hunt out the causes of such things. I am persuaded 
that such show scholars, such pattern pupils, such gold 
and silver exhibition medals of the master have simply 
been spoiled by over-lessoning. If, instead of cultivating 
to the highest degree the monotonous mechanism of the plastron, 
they had inured themselves to the changing fortunes of the 
mask, they would have become at the same time correct 
theorists and dangerous practicians. 

I will not pretend to say that chance, or whatever you please 
to call it, has not made certain and sundry exceptions, but we 
cannot found a rule upon what is not subject to rule. 


We have now passed through the long avenue which led to 
the building, and we tread freely and firmly upon the vast 
arena which men call the assault; that is to say, the image of 
battle, the trained and gladiatorial struggle; difficult, full of 
fever and passion, between the men who bring to their aid 
everything that they know, and whatever they think likely to 
turn in their favour the scales of combat. 

As regards myself, I never take up a foil for a serious assault, 
especially to meet a stranger, without a real emotion, a sensa- 
tion that makes the heart beat quicker and the brain " look 
alive." And I do not doubt that all men of the same tempera - 
ment as myself feel something of the kind (4). It is no dis- 
advantage, although perhaps for the first minute the foil may 
not be quite so steady as usual. Possibly, it is a greater advan- 
tage than is usually believed. I envy the unimpressionable being 
who, without an additional pulse-beat, without the least sensa- 
tion of chill in hands and feet, stands up to address the Chambers, 
the theatre, the banquet, or the Christian Young Man. But it 
is he whose head throbs and whose heart thumps against his 

(4) Burton might have placed this passage between inverted commas 
(c/. Clay's Baeancourt, p. 73). 

The Fifth Evening. 67 

ribs who hurries the hearer along with him, and who brings 
down the house in thunderous cheers. 

In this arena we shall find the two methods to which I have 
already alluded, the natural and the artificial, drawn up facing 
each other in hostile array. I will go round tho ranks with 
you, and subject to a rapid review the multiplied phases which 
are likely to strike your glance. 

The pupil, who began by standing before you ready for the 
goose step has now become a fencer. He has laid aside the 
plastron, and he has assumed the mask, prepared to do battle 
with all comers. Will you assist in the spectacle which is pre- 
pared for you? 

" Willingly," said Lord B., " and I think that I can answer 
for these gentlemen to-morrow night." 


AT the next smoke-seance without further preamble I spoke 
as follows : 


The assault is the fencer's, life, after he has emerged from the 
chrysalis state oi ihe plastronneur. It is a career full of dangers 
which incessantly repeat themselves; of rocks and shoals that 
must be weathered; of snares and pitfalls that must be avoided; 
of ruses and sharp encounters in which wit must be opposed to 
wit. It is the history of man with its illusions and disenchant- 
ments ; its fortunes and misfortunes, its defeats and its victories. 

Believe me, the innumerable counsels which fill your ponderous 
treatises, the preparations for all and everything that may 
occur, are as feather weights when actual experience sits in the 
other scale. Does a man ever profit from the experience of 
another man? The Spartan mother, when she buckled upon her 
son's arm his father's shield, only said to him, "Be strong, be 
brave, be prudent ! " These words resume everything mental 
that can be brought to bear upon the subject. 

All modes of strife for ma^ tery essentially resemble one another, 
from the snowballing of the village green to the triumphs of 
strategical campaigns, and the mighty battle of life itself. 
All tuition and advice must inculcate in some form or another 
th^ elements which rule in the attack and the defence, namely 
energy and daring, prudence and stratagem. " Les qualites d'un 
bon tireur," says a first-rate authority, " sont les memes en effet, 
toute proportion gardee, que celles d'un bon capitaine, la 
prudence, la fermete, la decision prompte, 1'execution rapide." 
Indeed, the comparison between the general and the fencer is 
one of tho banalities of the fencing book. 

To outwit your enemy, to attack him when it suits your con- 
venience, and not his interests, such is the secret of success in 
the fencing room, as in the field. 

68 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

To suspect the ambuscade which he prepares for you; to unite 
the prudence which trips up his fraud with the energy and 
audacity which drives in his force ; to inspire him with a rash 
self confidence that makes him sure of success; to turn the 
obstacles which if attacked would render victory almost as 
fatal as defeat; to feint and manoeuvre upon the centre when 
you would mass all your strength to assault the flank; to show 
weakness where you are strong, thus inviting the enemy to 
bruise and break himself upon you ; to defeat cunning by plain 
dealing, which is often the highest form of deceit, as honesty is, 
commercially speaking, the best policy ; to dissimulate your 
approaches, so as to surprise and demoralise, by the sudden 
impetus of the attack, and, perhaps, the ne plus ultra of practical 
wisdom, to contrive a safe retreat when fortune does not think 
proper to favour you. 

Are not these, and have they not been from time immemorial, 
the rules and maxims which have governed the great warriors 
of the world? 

Such is the science of the field of battle ; it is also that of man 
individually contending against man. And why? Simply because 
versatility of resources, stratagem, and science may change name, 
but must ever preserve nature. 

These are the words of wisdom to be impressed upon the 
pupil's mind. The rest belongs to inspiration, to that subtle 
spirit of intuition which emanates from the grave of many a 
dead trial, which warns us, which guides us, and which ever 
redoubles itself by rising higher as the occasion demands. 

But this "familiar" cannot be made a slave of the ring by 
the mere study of facts and forms ; it yields only to the exercising 
of lucid intelligence devised by science and experience. 

If the glorious gift of understanding, after being polished and 
perfected as far as teaching and training permit, be dealt out 
in such humble rations that it can divine nothing, cannot follow 
the course of events as they fly, cannot inspire itself with 
the opportunity before too late, then, I say, expect nothing 
from it. A deaf ear will be turned to your voice, and the words 
of counsel had better remain unspoken. 

I find solid truth in these words: " L'escrime exige des facultes 
varies, celui-la seul y deviendra superieur, qui sera d'une constitu- 
tion physique avantageuse, qui a un morale solide unira Pintelli- 
gence, le coup d'ceil, Pa-propos, la sensibilite du toucher, qui joindra 
au sang froid, qui permet de prevoir et de concevoir, I'impetuosite 
reglee qui execute, et enfin, qui saura mettre d'accord toutes les 
facultea diverses pour en former 1'ensemble de son jeu ; quelques 
uns moins bien doues pourront devenir des tireurs difficiles, sans 
jamais etre des tireurs serieux; d'autres, enfin, selon le degre 
d'inferiorite de leurs facultes physiques, resteront plus ou moins 
dans la position du paralytiquo qui vent marcher. Lors memo 
que le prejuge du duel aura completement disparu de nos mceurs, 

The Fifth Evening. 69 

1'escrime subsistera comme le plus noble exercise auquel puissent 
se livrer ceux qui aiment ce qui est beau, savant et utile." 

Here is the point where the two methods, the two systems, 
the old and the new, the artificial and the natural, begin to 
branch off from each other. In the former, the presiding geni-is 
is routine, in the latter intelligence; that is provisional, this is 
perpetual. (1) 

" Linnaeus and De Candolle," muttered Shughtie. 


If I could lead you into a fencing school as It was some hall 
a century ago, and show you the ceremonious assaults of that 
day, you would find that our present form, even amongst those 
who are careful to retain, as far as possible, its academical 
traditions, can only be described as revolutionary, as subversive. 
"The International!" ejaculated Seaton. 

Imagine what it was when every man wore, upon the breast 
leathers of his fencing jacket, a fine, big heart of red cloth, which 
told the world where the thrusts were to be and not to be. A 
point denting any other part of the garment was considered, not 
only a failure but a blunder; it was not merely condemned by 
tho rule of arms, it was overwhelmed with contempt. Circles, 
equally limited, were traced out for everything in the shape of 
attacks, parries, and ripostes. And as tho maitre d'armes, 
though retired into bourgeois life, was almost invariably an 
old soldier, the discipline of the salle d'armes was in the hands 
of a rig-id Sir Martingale Martinet; and its rules and regula- 
tions were kept saored with that hieratic conservatism proper 
to old soldiers shall I say of that day? 

Tho assault without buttons was then, moreover, a far more 
popular way of whiling away a dull morning hour than it is 
now amongst Continentals, especially military men, lawyers, 
and writers for the press. Thus, many a disputed thrust, half 
in or half out of the fine, big red heart, was made a pretext 
for settling disputes whoso Irue raison d'etre was to be kept 
from the world. In those days also it was the habit to wear 
in the fencing salon a certain ruffling air, which said clearly 
eaough " You have only to ask me ! " or that even more 
unpleasant affectation of wildness which suggests " When 
roused, I am more dangerous than other men." 

In the south of France it was the custom to make passes 
in the upper lines, easily done by holding the wrist higher 
than that of the adversary. Hence, when both touched one 
would exclaim, " J'ai le haut, j'ai raison," and his claim was 
admitted. Tho same was the case throughout Italy. 

(1) In the foregoing and hereafter Burton follows Bazaneouit more 
closely than he has before done, and much of the dialogue is a free 

70 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

On the other hand, in Paris there was a system to be 
resumed in these words: " J'attaque, j'ai raison, vouz deviez 
parer," and this was considered unanswerable in the case of 
a time thrust. 

Presently the ace of hearts disappeared from .he game. A 
thrust in the upper or lower chest, and even beneath the arm, 
was admitted under protest. Still, a point in the stomach, 
especially in the lower stomach, was considered to be what the 
Germans call a Schwein-stoss or a Sau-hicb. "Good heavens!'' 
said the gallery, "where must we go to find his blade? The 
next thing he will do is to tilt at us between our shoulders." 

" That's unfair," said Seaton, rousing himself after a cross 
kind of silence, " mere persiflage. The bull's-eye had its use, 
and we've lost by being laughed out of it. It directed eye 
and hand, it also made men aim at the centre. If they failed 
a little, the thrust was still good. In your modern school I'm 
obliged to keep a sharp look-out upon my left hip." 

And why should I not disable your left hip if it can be 
done? which, of course, it cannot be without exposing all my 
chest to you. What more fatal than a thrust in the bas venire? 
And yet, curious to say, a point in the thigh or in the forearm 
was perfectly allowable on the field, whilst it was inadmissible 
to buttoned foils, to the combat a armes courteoises. Besides, how 
can you trace the line when and where not to touch? How 
many men have been killed by a pass in the back after 
"running in" to a corps-d-corps and then shrinking instinctively 
from the point? 

This curious demarcation between the real thing and its 
shadow acted badly by leaving you unprepared against the 
blind and irregular onslaughts of unskilful hands. The sooner, 
therefore, it was abolished the better. The swordsman then, 
and then only, stood in readiness to resist ignorance, as well 
as to guard against the learned combinations with which he 
was familiar. 

" And the old style acted well," said Seaton, " by teaching 
the pupil the superior necessity of guarding his vitals. Many a 
man has saved his life by allowing his antagonist's sword to 
entangle itself in his arm or leg whilst he returned the thrust 
in a more decorous iplace." 


It was still evident that my auditory was only half convinced, 
if even so much, and that a second home thrust was required. 
As usual, I began with a feint, so as not to let them see the 

How often you hear in the sallcs d'armes " I do this in an 
assault ; I should never attempt it in the field." 

Now this is playing, mere skylarking, with the foil. If the 
action be really good it is fit for bo^h forms of combat, and vice 

The Fifth Evening. 71 

versa. On the other hand, you are right to encourage eccentri- 
city of fence when dealing with a man whose peculiar style 
you would stud>. You are never thoroughly safe until you have 
learned to defend yourself against any attempt which might 
have a fatal result. 

I cannot insist too strongly upon this point. So not to admit 
thrusts in the low lines from flank to stomach is, according to 
me, nothing but a vulgar error, with the dangerous conse- 
quences common to all error. If we judge from the results 
and I do not see what other measure of value we can have 
this despised, this interdicted point merits something of our 

" Who was it that said," asked Shughtie, " his plan was when 
wanting an original and interesting book to run his eye down 
the pages of the Index Expurgatorius? " 

It is not that I have any theoretical fondness for low thrusts; 
they are in one point, at least, essentially vicious if they expose 
all the upper part of the body. But I fear them, and therefore 
I respect them. It has been my lot to cross swords with almost 
every kind of fencer, and experience has taught me the full risk 
of not being .prepared for these dangerous exceptions. 

"I suspect," said Lord B., "that you must bring more reason 
to bear upon Capt. Seaton before he consents to raise the 
excommunication. ' ' 

Let me try. The many fencers who are in the habit of pre- 
senting the point when they break or step backwards almost 
always drop the hand so as to threaten the lower line of the 
adversary's body. The few, again, who lunge to the rear, and 
bend the body backwards, instead of retreating from your 
attacks, according to rule, are almost sure to do the same. I 
need hardly say that the man who is ignorant of the sword 
always begins by using it to stab underhand, with wrist low 
and perhaps in old tierce. He is probably right, whether he 
knows it or not. The skilful fencer, again, will certainly 
attempt to make a point by a low thrust when, judging from the 
academical elevation of his uand, you do not expect it. 

The stomach, therefore, must be defended quite as carefully 
as the chest ; and the same reasoning will show you the pro- 
priety of attacking in the low lines those who neglect to prepare 
for you. 


I continued : 

Ut silvae foliis pronis mutantur in annis 
Prima cadunt ; ita verborum vetus interit eetas 
Et juvenum ritu florent modo nata vigentque. 
And what is true of leaves and words ajpplies equally to fencing. 
Old Girard Thibaust, of Anvcrs, who is one of the worthies of 
th-3 rapier, consecrates whole pages (Academie de I'Espee, 

72 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

MDCXXVIII.) to a pleasant thrust, which he calls Lc coup dc 
pointe dans Vocil droit, thereby distinguishing it from the elash, 
which would also bring about the same happy result. And 
his princely folio offers a multitute of illustrations to those who 
would master the proper way of blinding an enemy. 

The adversary attacks you ; you parry ; he doubles himself 
up, as it were, and your ripost touches his mask, his back, or 
his arm. " The mask ! the back ! the arm ! " says your 
antagonist, recovering guard indifferently, and airily denoting 
with his sinister finger tips the place of dishonour. And there 
are many who go on lunging as if nothing had occurred. 

The mask, sir ! But do you reflect that this thrust might 
have passed through your brain, which would have been quite 
as effectual as passing through your lungs ? That other would 
have introduced six inches of cold steel into your back. The 
third would have pinned your arm to your breast. You place 
your face, your back, your arm where your breast should be. I 
touch what is before me, and I feel, you may be certain, amply 
satisfied with the result. 

Do you really believe that were the buttons removed from 
the foils you would consider it equivalent to parrying or to 
escaping a thrust, this substitution of one part for another? 
That you are out of danger because you only expose your head, 
your back, or your neck to be drilled through ? 

Certes, it is the height of desperation to risk blow for blow 
when both you and your adversary suffer equally. To use 
t>uch means aa these shows that you have no -others at your dis- 
posal ; yet it must always be borne in mind that you must use 
what you have. 

" All right," cried Seaton, with bitter irony, " introduce face 
blows, and presently we shall have occiput strokes. It is perhaps 
happy for reformers that, like revolutionists, they never know, 
and never can know, how far they're going; in fact, what they're 
really doing." 

By way of an escape from a very ticklish topic, I pursued : And, 
as we have mentioned the eye, it may be as well to lay down the 
proper use of it, before being subjected to Mr Thibaust's process, 
Men entendu. 

Some masters tell you to watch the adversary's eye, and to 
interrogate his every glance. But the man cunning of fence will 
soon find that you rely upon his look, and he will take advantage 
of your simplicity by looking at the precise place where he does not 
intend to strike. Others say, " Keep your sight fixed upon the 
button " on the point of the sword. But the sun may be shining 
upon the blade, or the morn may be somewhat dark for the 
button to stand well out. My plan has ever been to distribute 
my vision equally, so that my bow may have two strings, and 

The Fifth Evening. 73 

long practice has made the process so natural that I cannot say 
what I am looking at. 

" The eye for ever ! " came from the proper quarter. 


I now proceed with pleasure to another heresy of my practice. 

"What ferocity of heresy'/" Shughtie groaned; "the man 
milit hail from Arabia Felix." 

You will read in the fencing books; " Une fois 
en mesure, les vrais tireurs no doivent marcher ni rompre 
d'une demi-semelle, mais de leurs places faire franchement 
des attaques qui peuvent etre precedees d' engagements, et de 
quelques petites attaques au fer avec finesse, qui doivent finir 
par un coup tire a fond." 

My advioo to every pupil is exactly the reverse. 

Whenever you are attacked, retreat, if it be only a half pace. 
There is everything in favour of the practice, nothing against it, 
except in the bad opinion of your adversary. He certainly will ^ 
find cause to complain. 

Let us consider the many advantages which result from it. 

Eompre n'est pas parer, I read. But by breaking that is to 
say, by retiring, I increase the efficacy of my parry. I am more I 
assured about it, because it is not my only resource, my last j 
card. And the retreat of the body doubles the vivacity of the >, 

If the attack has been made more rapidly than the parry, by 
retreating I parry twice ; first, with my sword, which overtakes, 
if it cannot accompany, the enemy's blade ; secondly, with my 
body, which, by retiring, preserves its distance, and causes the 
tli rust that would have reached me, had I stood still, to fall 
short of its aim. 

The retreat is invaluable against simple attacks, because it 
takes from them their elan and rapidity of execution. 

Hie retreat is invaluable against compound attacks, feintings, 
and so forth, because, by remaining in place, your hand often 
acts too fast, and your blade only beats the air. It is also the 
surest way to avoid the body stab delivered by shortening the 
arm. In the latter you may, it is true, stop the adversary by a 
time thrust, but in the field most probably both will fall, because 
it places him beyond reach of, and safe from, either surprises- 
and tirer de surprise is a favourite plan with spme men. It also 
saves him from those blind and savage attacks in which certain 
natures seek a che.nce of success. 

This part of our system immensely increases the fencer's self- I 
reliance. At the same time, it diminishes the confidence of his ; 
opponent; the latter, after successive failures, is likely to lose 
head, always a gain to you, and perhaps to rush forward with 
a compound attack. In this case you meet him hand to hand 
with a "Contre de Tierce" or " de Quarte," and, if your wrist 
l>e strong and dexterous, you may make his sword strike the . 

74 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

ceiling. Even if he does riot rush, he is most likely to throw 
himself open in some way. 

To advance upon the sword is always the most dangerous action 
and the most difficult part of the Art of Arms. 

It loses time; it uncovers one side by covering the other, and 
it cannot be effected without somewhat shaking the play. It 
is only comparatively safe for a very short man against men 
much taller than himself. 

Nor must you think the retreat, as some do, injurious to the 
ripost; on the contrary, it makes the latter at once surer and 

It often happens that after a lunge freely made the lunger 
remains for a time without recovering himself, attempting second 
thrusts, or remises de main, straight thrusts on the side where 
the parry took place. The two adversaries are now at quarters 
so close that the ripost can hardly be made without shortening 
the arm and exposing the breast. A step backwards saves all 

Nothing prettier, nothing more artistic, I freely own, than the 
parry and ripost, delivered with the feet motionless as a statue's. 
That tic ! tac ! movement is the height of art. But against 
fencers of different styles, perhaps dangerous withal, you must 
not often attempt such tours de force; otherwise, like the man 
who hunts tigers on foot, your discomfiture is only a matter of 
time. You may do it, as you may not bet, only when you are 
perfectly certain of your "coup." To make it the systematic 
base of your play is, I believe, unreasonable as it is dangerous. 

"And if," said Charles, laughing, "the adversary do the same, 
you'll soon find yourselves not only out of sword reach, but out 
of pistol shot." 

The result will be three advantages to you, a thing certainly not 
to be despised. 

Firstly, if your opponent has had the same thought, or has 
received the same advice, it is a testimony in favour of the 

Secondly, his rapid retreat clearly shows you that he also 
dreads surprises and " closing-in " movements, that his chances of 
success will not be sought in this order of ideas, and that his 
attacks will be prudent and reasoned. 

Thirdly, and especially when preparing for actual combat, these 
few seconds of preamble allow you to settle your equilibrium, to 
draw upon your self-confidence, to face without emotion thai 
sword point which threatens you, and to allay the first involuntary 
movement of anxiety which, in such cases, the strongest nature 
must endure for a moment. Moreover, you have been able to 
entrap your adversary in a comprehensive glance of observation, 
and to draw your own conclusions from his position, from liis 
handling of the sword, and from the general way in which he 
offers battle. 

The Fifth Evening. 75 

This renders it worth your while to stand for a few minutes 
even out of pistol shot. 


A low murmur received these remarks, so I continued them. 

My mind has long been made up on this point, and my pupils 
must perforce do the same. It is the more necessary for me to 
impress it upon them, because the masters are against me almost 
to a man. 

The highest honour is justly given by them, as by myself, to 
the parry without retreat. The retiring parry, on the other 
hand, is unjustly regarded by them as a resource in extremis, 
as a last refuge, a confession that the action wants quickness, or 
the judgment maturity. And many professors would, I am cer- 
tain, rather see their pupils " buttoned " than escape by a pace 

Perhaps there is a deeper cause for this prejudice than is 
usually suspected. In old duels men have been tied by the left 
foot, and even still in parts of Europe, Heidelberg, for instance, 
a line of chalk marks the ne plus ultra of retreat. The idea of 
" falling back " is always distasteful, and the single step to the 
rear in the rude and instinctive judgment of men represents the 
premier pas of flight. I once made a man an enemy for life by 
simply saying during a hand-to-hand " scrimmage," " Don't fall 

Let me thus state my rule of contrary : 

In general and on principle, accompany the parry with a 
retreat of either a full pace or a half pace, according to 
action of your adversary. Parry with firm foot only when, 
like the conjuror forcing a card, you have led the adversary 
to make the attack for which you are prepared. 

If you see in the opponent a disposition to attack with firm 
foot within middle measure, without either advancing or 
retreating by sudden and irregular movements, never attempt- 
ing to surprise nor to deceive by unforeseen combinations, then 
a tic ! tac ! or two may be allowed. But beware of the man 
especially if there is what hair-cutters call a " thinness " upon 
the upper part of his head, or if the corners of his beard show 
a slight powdering of pepper and salt who tries to shorten 
distance between himself and you by stealthily gaining ground 
under the mask of some well-devised feint. Fcenum habet in 

Finally, I am strict with my pupils upon the manner of their 
retreat. Some shuffle the left foot, others take a succession of 
steps, or rather back stumbles, which seem really to be the 
beginning of flight. But, above all things, I warn the learner 
never to stand within measure a position of endless and useless 
danger to himself or to the adversary ; perhaps I should eay 
to himself and the adversary. 

76 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

"What answer have you to all this, Capt. Seaton ? " the 
Marquis asked. 

But Seaton threw up hands and eyes to the ceiling. This 
[ time indignation made him speechless. He was " not equal to 
the occasion," as said the Californian of a thousand oaths when 
his cart was bogged. 

"I think," articulated Shughtie without removing his briar 
root, " that it would not be difficult to interpret our friend's 
thoughts. He would express something of this kind. 

" Thie heresy, which strikes at the very root of all that is 
great and good in swordsman nature, doesn't gain dignity by 
being analysed. It's in the category of Royal Roads, of 
Something-made-easier, of This-and-that-without-a-maeter, of 

" Let us eee what this person proposes to do. He would 
confine his attacks, simple and compound, to eight, and of these 
he holde only four to be absolutely necessary ; in fact, he 
reduces the supremacy of the foil to the humility of the broad- 
sword. He treats the parries as cavalierly, and he dismisses 
from the service callously, as if he were a Liberal Government, 
all but seven, characteristically allowing the only four good 
places to his especial friends. Total, eight movements out of 
what he himself stated to be twelve. 

"After this you'll not be astonished to hear that his pupil 
learns the whole art and mystery, the tola res scibilis, in a 
month. We'll allow another week for this precious idea of 
retiring instead of parrying. We'll even be liberal and throw 
in seven more days for ' finishing lessons,' as the singers say 
for French polish, in fact. So that this individual proposes to 
do in six weeks what took our friftnd Seaton at least six years. 
" Such things may be, but they're not probable. The world 
would have heard of them before. Men have fenced even 
before A.D. 1500, as we've been told with much erudition. The 
world, I don't doubt, will hear of it. It strikes me that, like 
a young member of the House of Commons who harangues and 
specifies and divides his nrations into first, second, and third 
place at ' tea-fights,' you are talking like a book and for a 
book ; but I fear lest the world will say all-ez vous promeuer. 

" Didn't you vex the dull ear of a drowsy man one whole 
evening last week with crotchets about happiness? how every 
being, human or otherwise, comes into the world with a certain 
capacity for enjoyment which can't be increased and can't be 
decreased ? how every being, human or otherwise, is equally 
Dlest absolutely in equal measure, though one's always in 
extremis and the other's not? how this results from creation 
being governed by an unknown x, proved only to exist by 
its efforts, the unconscious, or rather the non-conscious, thought 
and will which work out the world-process ? how it'e this form 
of instinct, not our vulgar reason, that makes all of us want 

The Fifth Evening. 77 

to be richer, healthier, wiser, or more famous, when the same 
vulgar reason teaches that the possession of the glbbe wouldn't 
add a milligram to our happiness, and much of the same kind? 
And what did I reply? Sir, you see the whole world 
running after wealth and fame, and so forth. Well, then, are 
they all wrong and you all right? You may be clever as 
Voltaire, jeune homme, but, like him, you can't be cleverer than 
everybody. I say the &ame of the fencing crotchets. Go to, 
man ! the world would have heard of this before." 

It was a wondrous tirade, considering that he never withdrew 
his pipe, and actually puffed between the sentences. Hardly 
fair of him, however, to quote the philosophy of the unconscious 
and to mix up my lay eermon with fencing. This, I suppose, 
threw me off my guard. 

Have I not said before that after a thousand, possibly a 
million, of failures and errors, one single intelligence some 
man who has never been heard of, a man whose name the world 
would most willingly let die etrikes into the right path. 

A groan broke from every sitter, a well-defined and several 

I hastened to change the subject. The movement of the earth 
and the circulation of the blood are worn out. But I retain my 
own opinion upon the subject of happiness, ditto of simplifying 
the sword, ditto of retreating during the parry. 


A bright thought struck me, I would show the benighteds 
who disagreed with me how the " seven days of French polish " 
so rudely sneered at could be turned to exceptional advantage. 

But after such a rebuff a long exordium was necessary before 
coming to the point. 

It is hard to believe, I continued, in a long concatenation of 
attacks and parries, riposts and counter-riposte, unless upon 
the stage or between two fencers who have previously settled 
what to do. And when I hear of duels that take half an hour 
before first blood is drawn, it is easy to see that the fight is only 
for first blood. The twelve fought in France in 1873 averaged 
only eight minutes each. 

"Yet," said Shughtie, "I have read of an assault which took 
place in Naples between two first-rate men the Principe di 
Carusa and the Cavaliere Achille Cipriani who fenced without 
a thrust going home till they could no longer hold the foils. 

Yes, I rejoined, but it was considered a miracle of skill, 
presence of mind, and prevoyance. 

In swordsmanship all manner of ipre-occupation is an addi- 
tional weight. It is like wearing sabots instead of dancing 
bottines; hence another necessity for simplification. The fencer 

E 2 

78 1 he Sentiment of the Sword. 

who first stands before his adversary is travailed in mind about 
the line of assault : is it the outer or the inner, the upper or 
the lower that is most likely to be chosen ? He will probably 
wait till the antagonist clearly develops his intention, and thus 
he exposes himself to a disadvantage. If the attack be simple, 
and if the hand conduct it rapidly, the attacked gives away the 
chance that resides in a well-judged onset carried out with 
thoughtful ardour. We rarely find, even amongst the oldest 
swordsmen, that excessive tact which alone can divine the inten- 
tion of the adversary, and enter, as it were, into his thoughts. 
The peculiar gift also often accompanies other and deteriorating 
qualities. So we sometimes note an aitist, who can make a 
first-rate likeness, but who cannot paint a portrait. 

What, then, is the remedy ? We must evidently seek some 
parry which, mechanically traversing all four lines, cannot 
but meet the enemy's sword whatever direction this may happen 
to take. When such comprehensive defence is found, appre- 
hension and anxiety calm down, and the wandering thoughts 
range themselves willingly under orders of the will ; there is 
no more uncertainty ; indecision is at an end. 

The simplest and by far the most natural of the universal 
parries is the complete circle described by the sword point, 
which, in the language of the fencing schools, " picks up " every 
thrust. Of course, it is double, as it may be begun from tierce 
as well as from carte. It may be varied at times by compound 
counters for instance, contre de tierce and contre de quarte, or, 
vice versa, contre de quarte and contre de tierce. As you must not 
allow the adversary to discover the mechanism of the parry, 
you will occasionally try a single counter, say of tierce, followed 
by an opposition in carte. I should advise you to reserve for 
your greatest needs that in which you succeed best. And kindly 
do not forget what I said concerning the relative facility of the 
centre de tierce (sur les armes) versus the contre de carte (dons 
les armes). 

" After heresy," cried Seaton, " we now arrive at charla- 
tanism in all its integrity. What can be easier than to evade 
such grind-organ, windmill-like action? Where is your circle if 
attacked by a circle and a disengagement?" 

Of course, nowhere. Parries can be deceived what parry 
cannot? " L'escrime," says an author, ' vit de loyales per- 
fidies." What pass cannot be parried? If you should happen 
to invent an impossible thrust or an infallible parry mind, I 
do not doubt your power of so doing take out a patent at once, 
become one of the millionaires of the world, and found a 

I said the other evening that a fencer's force consisted, accord- 
ing to me, far less in the variety of his play and in the combina- 
tions of his feints than in the soundness of his judgment and in 
the quickness and vivacity of his hand. This is so true that 

The Fifth Evening. 79 

almost all swordsmen, professionals as well as amateurs, have 
certain favourite forms of attack, parry, and ripost. These 
arc, as it were, bosom friends, to whom they ever recur in the 
hour of need. And it surely will not take more than a few 
lessons to find what movements are the most appropriate to the 
fencer's physique and morals. 

Amidst the divers phases of an assault the same passes and 
parries often bear but a minimum of resemblance to one 
another. The fact is, they arc varied in form and modified in 
action according to the individuality which uses them and that 
upon which they are used. Indeed, this is the main secret of 
their force. 

I would address these remarks to any intelligent and un- 
prejudiced student of arms. 

Let us take as an illustration the simplest of all parries 
tierce and carte. 

How many times does not this elementary movement vary ? 
How many transformations cannot it assume Y 

Light as a feather with this man, sturdy and vigorous with 
that; idle and flaccid, or energetic and even violent; high or 
low, conforming itself to every exigency and responsive to every 

Follow the movements with your eye. Now the blades part 
suddenly, as if severed by repulsion; then, magnetically 
attracted, the one holds down and dominates its opponent. 

It is a proper appreciation of this endless variety in action, of 
these infinite nuances in the same movement, which constitutes 
the true swordsman. 

I repeat to you : he who contents himself with reciting the 
burden of his memory, however fluently, however correctly, will 
never be anything but a pupil or a parrot let him choose 
between the two. 

That thrust was severe. I resumed : 


Amongst the old bouquins which sloop peaceably upon the 
uptper shelves of the library I found one. dating from A.D. 1600, 
containing these lines : 

"Car combien que la loy do suivre les mouvements naturels 
doive estre inviolable, toute fois il faut entendre que la neces- 
site n'en a nulle, et qu'elle enfonce toutes loys, quelque stables 
qu'cllcs puisscnt estre." 

It would hardly be fair to abuse this unprejudiced maxim by 
enlarging and commentating upon it, as it has abused the good 
old Latin proverb. But in the art of arms, methinks, we may 
use it, and use it well. 

After treating of the parry, we come to the ripoet. Upon 
this subject a few words suffice. 

B 3 

80 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

Remember that the parry and the ripost are sisters Siamese 
twins, in fact two-headed nightingales, which, once parted, 
would lose their vitality, their raison d'etre. 

The ripost must be so connected with the parry that it may 
be considered its second part, its continuation, its conclusion. 

Therefore, as a general rule, make your ripost in the line 
where you have met the sword, inside or outside, above or 
below. The ripost by straight thrust, they say, soon becomes 
mechanical. Yet to change is to lose time, to waste in combina- 
tion what had far better remain single. It also frequently 
allows your adversary to recover himself, or, worse still, to 
make a remise de main. Above all things never shorten the 
arm, or your ripost will be lost it is throwing gold upon the 

Every ripost must have its opposition that is to say, cover- 
ing oneself on the line of the adversary's blade. Such is not 
the rule in prime, but I have already warned you against that 
antiquated position. 

Avoid as a rule riposts against half-lunges, because they are 
expected and prepared for. 

If you suspect that the adversary, as often happens in the 
case of a cool, old, wary sworder, attacked you with the object 
of drawing you on, and especially if you remark that he covers 
himself well upon that side, leaving the other at all exposed, 
you may avoid the snare by a single disengagement or a cut- 
over in the direction which he does not expect. But never risk 
more than one. 

Cultivate in the ripost the utmost possible simplicity, com- 
bined with all the quickness of which you are capable. The 
great secret of success here lies in the parry, to which nine 
pupils out of ten habitually apply double the strength required. 
And this fatal practice often becomes so engrained that when 
they would relieve their muscles the action becomes soft and 

A few words about the remise de main one of the most 
dangerous of passes if used by a skilful swordsman, one of the 
most objectionable in the hands of ignorance. It is, in fact, a 
form of redoubling that is to say. of multiplying thrusts before 
returning to guard. As a rule I teach it late in the course, 
because it is so liable to gross abuse, and often in inexperienced 
hands it results in coup pour coup, which, as the treatises say 
truly, dishonours a fencer. The legitimate form is when the 
adversary, after parrying your thrust, removes his opposition, 
either from futility or with the object of a ripost. You may 
then either make what is called a "false retreat "that is, 
return halfway to guard or, better still, deliver the remixe 
from the full lunge. It is valuable against a man who hesitates 
about his ripost, and some fencers are so fond of it that they 
owe to it half their successes. 

The Fifth Evening. 81 


Will you allow me to take a liberty, I said to the dark youth 
in the corner, and ask you to sum up the case as it now lies 
before the jury? 

He assented willingly and without mauvaise honte. 

"You've told us that the lesson is a preparatory study a 
copy of the master's style. The assault is the pupil's indivi- 
duality brought out by himself the original poem which genius 
produces after its apprenticeship of imitation. 

"The only general, fundamental, and universal rules that can 
be given are those which in all ages have governed the attack 
and the defence. 

" In the attack, energy controlled by prudence and reasoning; 
in the defence, firmness, astuteness, and self-confidence. 

" And now, passing from the ensemble to the details of your 
new or natural system. 

" The error of the sallt d'armes has been to prohibit passes in 
tho lowest and in the highest lines, debarring the pupil from the 
practice of defence, and exposing him perhaps to a thrust which 
may be fatal. 

" On guard, as much relaxation of muscle as possible. In the 
attack, all manageable vigour and momentum. When parrying, 
tho just amount of muscular force required- -no more and not 

" As a rule, parry with a step or a half step in retreat, so as to 
give the parry double security and the ripost more liberty of 
action. Parry with the feet firm only when you are certain of 
what is coming on, when you have learned that your adversary 
is easily managed. 

" For greater freedom of thought and escape from preoccupa- 
tion, usually employ a compound parry that covere all the four 
lines, and must meet the sword of the adversary whatever be its 
direction. At timee change it, or the opponent will divine the 
mechanism of your action. 

" Fix your look upon the adversary's point and eye, not upon 
point or eye. Make your riposts in the straight line, and avoid 
especially the complications which would admit remises and re- 

"As a rule, don't attempt the remise (1e main unless 
adversary neglects his opposition." 

A murmur of applause was heard when the youth ceased to 
speak; he deserved it for interpreting my thoughts and resum- 
ing my words with so much ability and conciseness. 

" The sooner you leave England the better," cried Seaton, 
meaning me, "or the noble art of fencing will be no more." 

After this there was nothing to do but to separate for the 
night a raimable. 

82 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

My rapid retreat upstairs did not quite save me from a 
sermon duly delivered by Shughtie. 

"What is all this?" said he, with more than usual gravity. 

" Are you again at what our Irish friend used to call your 
'tricks.' Is this merely your common banter of what you 
modestly call feebly intellectual folks, and your fun in shocking 
what you look upon as their prejudices? Is Seaton to be brought 
low with insomnia, athumia, asthenia, and other things beginning 
with alpha priv., that you may make holiday for an hour? Or 
have these heresies, these perversions of judgment, actually 
affected your unhappy brain ? " 

" A curtain lecture is a comedy compared with this," I cried, 
rushing wildly down the corridor. 



THE last discussion 'had been stormy, and I confess to having 
felt somewhat nettled by the obstinate vis inertice of the moribund 
school, that mass of artificiality, the gift of tradition and 
authority. It reminded me of a certain old man of the (Central 
African) sea. 

During the forenoon I was asked what would probably be 
the subject for the evening, and my reply was the tyranny and 
usurpation of le sentiment (hi fcr. Perhaps the seductive 
antithesis or oxymoron had its effect, for the Marchioness 
signified her high will and pleasure to be present with her two 
daughters a sentimental foil, sounding in English somewhat 
like an oyster in love. On the other hand, Capt. Seaton 
declared solemnly that he washed his hands of the whole affair, 
and that whatever horror of heresy might issue from my 
mouth, he would not be induced to utter a word. I suspect 
that he had conetituted as his spokesman John Shughtie, whose 
temper was more tranquil, more sage. 

At the accustomed time I took my wonted place, and spoke 
as follows : 

We will begin by defining le sentiment du fer, which can 
hardly bear translation as " the sentiment of the sword." 
The word d'outre manche expresses a something between sense 
and sentiment which we do not possess. Perhaps le tact du fer 
is a more intelligible synonym. 

" The French is not only the natural language of the chase, 
but that of love and of war, in which ladies should be won and 
enemies defied." Without going so far as the misguided Sir 
Brian de Bois-Guilbert, we may, however, own that the Neo- 
Latin tongue has made itself at home in the fencing school, 
and we may use it without suspicion of " pedantry " the cry 

The Sixth Evening. 83 

generally raised by ignorance against knowledge. Italian 
expresses the same things equally well, but, then, it i& farther 
off than the French. 

The sentiment du fer is that supreme art of digitation which 
is to the complete swordsman what the touch of the pulse is, 
or rather was, to the old physician who disclaims the new- 
fangled thermometer. It begins to make itself felt as soon as ; 
the blades come into contact. Essential to the highest develop- 
ment of our art, it is the result of happy natural disposition, 
of Jong study, and of persevering attention. To the hand it 
gives lightness and that indescribable finesse which guide the 
cue of the billiard player ; to the passes it communicates 
quickness directed by an appreciation of the case which can 
hardly be subjected to analysis. It is that mysterioue resume 
of delicate manipulation, of practised suppleness in wrist and 
forearm, and of precision in movement, which makes the 
adversary feel powerless before it, which startles at the same 
time that it commands- him. No quality in a swordsman is 
more rarely found in any degree approaching perfection. To 
say that I have not the highest admiration of it would be to 
set myself down in the lowest ranks of materialism as the 
world understands the word. But its very potency suggests 
the absolute necessity of providing against it when we find eo 
rare a gift opposed to us. 

" A woman's wit would suggest that the easiest way would be 
to oppose it by equal sentiment," said Lady B. 

And she would be right, supposing everything to be as it 
ought to be. But if the gift be seldom found how can we 
expect to see it equally distributed between two swords? We 
must reason upon the generality of fencers and not upon 
exceptions. The man who has mastered this supreme excellence 
of swordsmanship envelops, so to speak, within the circle of his 
will the hand and the point of hie adversary ; he attracts them 
alternately and repels them ; he plays with them ; he fascinates 
them as the serpent holds the bird with its glittering 1 eye. It 
represents what the mesmeriser calls the power of volition ; it 
is the aura magnetica of the sword. Where, then, shall we find 
the means of counteracting the influence ? Evidently by with- 
drawing ourselves- from it. I need hardly explain what our 
neighbours mean by dopner Vepee. When two fencers, after 
falling on guard, have " engaged " that is, have crossed 
weapons the thing is done. 

Here, then, is our only safeguard not to give the sword ; to 
remove the blade from that of the adversary ; rarely, if ever, 
to permit the foils to meet. The professors, the schoolmen, and 
all who stand upon the ancient paths this was said with 
intention loudly declare that not to " give the sword " is a 
mere corruption of swordsmanship; that it means to thrust and 
tilt blindly and without judgment; that it exposes both fencers 

84 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

to passes driven home at the same time, to the affreux combat 
dc yladiateurs oil les deux antayonistcs sont We .s',s '/ la fvi* : 
that it loads to what is technically called plaquer (that is, to 
strike the antagonist with the flat blade, not with the point) ; 
and that it prevents the pupil ever reaching the apogee of his 
art namely the sentiment du fer. 


The idea of developing this defence was suggested by a 
comical) dialogue in the rooms of an old professor, Constantin, of 
Boulogne, when a friend, who was quite of second-rate strength, 
had been placed opposite an older hand, and a far better fencer 
than himself. The latter, I should add, was also one of those 
many perverse people to whom custom and routine represent 
supreme law. 

My friend fell into position, and after the foils were crossed, 
by way of signal to begin, withdrew his blade either purposely 
or by accident, and managed to touch" his adversary several 
times in succession. 

" Will you be kind enough," said the vanquished one, " to 
give me your sword ? " 

"Why so?" 

" Because if you don't give me the sword how can you 
expect us to fence together? " 

" We will fence as we can ! " 

" No ! You ought to give me the sword." 

"I see no 'ought' in the case. You're trying to touch me, 
I'm trying to touch you. My plan seems to succeed well all 
the better reason for keeping to it." 

"Possibly," replied the routinist ; "but this can't be called 
fencing when you don't give the sword." 

By this time all the fencers in the salle d'arme had inter- 
rupted their assaults and collected in a little knot to hear the 

"Let's sit down for a minute," said my friend, "and settle 
the question quietly. Allow me to ask whether you complain 
of my passes." 

" Not at all ! " 

" Of my parries? " 

" Not the least ! " 

" Have I retreated too much? Have I kept too much within 
distance ? " 


" Have I attempted by strength to force in your guard? " 

" No ! " 

" Have I attacked you out of my turn, or have I risked our 
both being touched at the same time ? " 

" Never ! " 

"Then what do you want more? " 

The Sixth Evening. 85 

'' I want you to give me the eword ! " 

" In order to bo agreeable to you ? In order that you may 
touch me when I'm touching you ? " 

" I don't say that, but it's not fencing when you don't give 
the sword." 

Some of the bystanders were of one opinion, others were of 
another. But it was impossible to drive the old hand from the 
position which ho had taken up. Like the Hindu Yogi who 
stands ten years under a tree, he was not to be moved. 

And thus it is, thus it ever has been, and thus it ever will 
be, fortunately in some senses for man, whenever the so-called 
sacrilegious hand touches the ancient traditions of anything in 
art, in science, or in anything else. The most obtuse cannot 
but feel that this is the signal for putting an end to the quiet 
life of Old Routine, and of turning him adrift upon the wide, 
cold world of reform, of novelty, of progress. He resists, he 
struggles, he fights, because he feels that you are tearing him 
away from his line of placid successes, his pleasant habits, his 
occupations which have been learned by heart, and which are 
regulated, like a piece of music, phrase after phrase. We 
cannot, therefore, wonder that he losee temper again said with 
intention but that does not prove him to be right. And the 
mass of society hates new things; they introduce an element of 

"I think," said Shughtie, "that we have heard that before. 
cobbler, do keep to your last ! " 

" A pun ? " asked Lady Margaret. 

Heaven forefend ! 


By not giving the sword, you oppose an unexpected obstacle 
this dangerous tact; you escape from the fascination; you j 
ik the spell. By never allowing the adversary his customary 
base of operations, you defeat his manceuvres ; you make him 
enter upon a new mode of tactics. An able general will alter 
his plan, and seek a triumph by beating you with your own 
arms. But he feels the difficulty ; he is no longer upon plain 
ground, master of himself, and assured of every movement. 

By giving the sword, you must always stand within distance I 
of the point. That is to say, you must at all times be exposed / 
to an attack de pied ferme, when it is most likely to succeed, we I 
will say, by a strong straight thrust, or by a degagement de \ 
vitcsse. It is impossible, even for the most practised hand, to ' 
be certain of parrying such an attack, and, if the measure 
between the points be somewhat short, the best fencer may find 
himself "buttoned." Under such circumstances thought, which 
is ever on the alert, finds itself troubled and excited ; apprehen- 
sion and preoccupation work the brain, and it is vain to attempt 
maturing an attack. 

86 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

When it happens you have been warned how rarely that 
two fencers equally matched meet to share the danger, then I 
say to them, "In this matter do as you think fit." 

But in other cases, I say to the feeble one, " The act of 
refusing to give your sword, combined with keeping your 
adversary out of distance, compels him to advance for the 
purpose of attack, a proceeding not only dangerous in itself, 
but also beneficial to you as betraying his intention. You are 
thus no longer in the presence of an imminent catastrophe, 
which takes from you all liberty of action, all coolness of 
judgment. You disquiet your adversary by leaving him in doubt 
as to which of the four lines you threaten ; you can consult 
your own time and convenience, and, when it suits you to 
attack or to parry, you can sharply engage the enemy's sword. 

Never lend ear to innuendos about donner Vepee. You will , 
find that it is an " inartistic ruse and weakness, a want of 
taste, dignity, and moral greatness." Reply that your object 
is to touch, and not be touched, and that this is your mainstay 
of defence against coups de vitcsse generally, and especially 
against a man who is strong in the straight thrust. 

I find, in this system one real and absolute good it guarantees 
your personal safety. The list of other advantages which it 
presents would be long to recite. Old and wary swordsmen 
delight in surprises, because they find such ruses easily passed 
upon young hands ; so the aged lion and the worn-out tiger 
become man-eaters. The middle-aged fencer, whose arms are 
like iron, affects those passes which enable him, by mastering 
the centre of your blade, or by gliding from the strong to the 
weak kind, such as the liement de Vepee, the pression, the 
batlement, the croise, and what are called in general Us attaques 
de Vepee, to force in your guard. These advantages on your 
adversary's side will not be annihilated, but their danger will be 
sensibly diminished ; at any rate, their execution becomes more 
difficult, and it is accompanied by a far greater amount of risk. 

Here, however, a word of warning ! When I tell you never 
tj give the sword, it is not meant that you should uncover 
yourself in order to keep your blade out of line. That would 
indeed be an error. 


I must not leave you under the impression that this part 
of the New or Natural system, namely, not giving the sword, 
is useful only to a feeble fencer engaged with a skilful and 
experienced sword. There is no reason, at least that occurs to me, 
why skill and experience should not make equal use of an 
innovation against which so much clamour has been raised. 

Its enemies, I have told you, declare that it utterly destroys 
the beauty and regularity of the play, that it leads to wild 
practice or practices; that the style becomes harsh, irregular, 
decousu, and that the danger of simultaneous thrusts is increased. 

The Sixth Evening. 87 

1 pretend, on the other hand, that this is only the abuse, not 
tha use of the change ; that it enlarges the circle of the arena, 
gives far greater latitude to individuality ; multiplies the action 
and the difficulties to be surmounted, and overthrows certain 
ideas which have been falsely admitted as inexpugnable. 

Why, may I ask, must my sword wander about in 'blindness 
and error because it is not incessantly glued to yours? 

A hair's breadth may separate our weapons, which will still 
be in the classical and scholastic line of direction. 

If you speak of the beginners, the bunglers, who blindly rush 
upon each other, they can certainly heap fault upon fault when 
giving as well as when not giving the sword. But why, when you 
raise to so giddy a height of excellence what you call le sentiment 
or le tact du fcr, should you dethrone a rival sovereign of equal 
puissance, who may be called le sentiment du regard, le 
tad du regard? Why allow this tyranny, this usurpation? At 
any rate, instead of ranking the former absolute, and the latter 
a nonentity, allow them the respective titles of Kaiser and King, 
and let them draw lots for the choice of precedence. 

Do you want antiquity, do you want quarterings for the noble 
house which claims part of the throne and crown? Here, then, 
is an extract from one of the classical works (Thibaust). 

" II s'ensuit que tout 1'avantage de 1'art consiste en 1'assurance 
de faire les ap,proches, ce qui ne peut estre pratique sans avoir 
entiere connaissance de 1' importance du sentiment " (observe 
the tact or touch) " et de la veue " (remark the importance 
given to the look) ; " et croyez que ny la vitesse du corps ny la 
promptitude des bras ne sont rien aupres d'une bonne 

How wonderfully the old writer, allow me to remark, goes 
to the heart of the subject; how, speaking of attacks, he gives 
its own and its proper relative value to the judgment of 
distance, to the sentiment du fer, to the sentiment du regard, and 
to the rapidity of action. It is strange to see that the new is 
not seldom only the very old ; it is sad to think how often when 
we deem ourselves inventor, \ve are only unconscious revivers. 
And the modern Italians are right. When speaking of a dis- / 
covery they never say trovato, but ritrovatu. 

" And the Lakes of Central Africa? " asked Lady Mary. 

Alas ! some two thousand years ago they were navigated by 
the good pilot Diogenes. 

"See Zanzibar, vol. I., chapt. 1, p. 5," said Shughtie ; "it is 
too charming when an author talks his own books." 

Yesterday evening I offered certain suggestions for the 
mechanical use of the eye. The great conjuror sent by the 
French Government to neutralise the mesmeric and the electro- 
biological semi-miracles of the Algerine and Moroccan Shayks 
had trained his glance to take in and his brain to remember 
the whole details of a furnished room at a single cast. His 

8 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

errand was hopeless; a single Pharaoh's magician against a 
host of Moses, his poor rod was soon swallowed up, ami he 
narrowly escaped the silver bullet as the enemy of mankind 
was run through the body in Gil Bias. But his training of the 
eye was perfectly successful. 

I remember unconscious homage to the look being rendered 
by a gunner on board the Griffon, an item of the West African 
Coffin-Squadron, long since sunk or burnt. Mr Richards, who 
had trained in the Excellent, was teaching cut and slash to a 
very mild-looking specimen of the British lion, whose expres- 
sion of countenance as he regarded his adversary was character- 
istic of benevolence and perhaps of being somewhat bored. 

"Don't look in that way, man!" shouted the stentorian 
voice; " look at him as if you'd eat him ! " 


Now see the swordsman who combines both "sentiments." 

He keeps his adversary at a distance, threatening him with 
agile blade, which gleams like lightning before his glance, 
and throwing him into confusion with the calculated irregu- 
larity of its action. His watchful look, fixed equally on point 
and eye, questions the coming movement, divines the thought 
that would conceal itself, and peers into futurity with a some- 
thing of prophetic strain. At the same time neither eye nor 
point betrays to hostile scrutiny aught of its secrets. In due 
time and at ease to himself, when everything has been weighed, 
disposed, and matured, this tireur roue wisely foresees both the 
attack and the ripost which is to follow it, presents his blade, and 
meets his adversary's; so that by bold and resolute action he 
wins the day. 

" It appears to me," Lord B. said, " that you allow the 
poor adversary no quarter." 

" Yes," Shughtie muttered, " as the Luck of Roaring Camp 
says, 'you see, it ain't no square game. They've just put up 
the keerds on that chap from the start.' He hasn't the ghost 
of a chance, poor wretch ! But, after all, you're bound to let 
us know what you do if in his turn the adversary will not give 
you the sword." 

The answer is easy. The great art of swordsmanship consists 
in laying successful snares, such as making your opponent 
expect the attack exactly where it is not intended. To deceive 
his expectations, to break up what he combines, to disaippoint 
his plans, and to narrow his action ; to dominate his movements, 
to paralyse his thoughts, represent the art, the science, the skill, 
and the power of your perfect swordsman. 

I reply, " If the adversary will not give the sword, force him 
to give it." This is the proper opportunity for feints, threats, 
and half attacks which would otherwise be misplaced. Either 
he parries them, or he attempts a time thrust, or he proceeds 
to stop you by presenting the point. In either case he must 

The Sixth Evening. 89 

offer you his blade, and you accept it as a base for the pression, 
the flanconnade, the battement, the croise, the liement, the 
froisscment d'epee, or any pass you see most appropriate to the 


A word about these movements, which are most affected by 
short men, and which, powerfully executed, shake the anta- 
gonist's system, and sometimes reduce him to the weakness of 
a child. The pression, or weighing upon the adversary's blade, 
is becoming obsolete; but I do not see the reason for ranking 
it below its neighbours when carefully carried out. The flan- 
connade is the resource of a physically strong against a weak 
man; it may be used against a left-handed fencer, 'but then 
it must be inverted. The battement in the Romantic School was 
done by sharply turning the hand in old carte, or nails up, when 
engaged tierce, and in old tierce (nails down) when engaged 
carte. This only adds to the difficulty, and my system is, act 
by the elbow spring, which increases the leverage. The croise is 
effected by turning the adversary's blade from carte to seconde 
or from tierce to demicircle ; if the hand be not well elevated, 
the fencer runs the risk of a derobement on the blade being 
withdrawn from him. I have seen the froissement followed by 
a disengagement, which is, of course, simply an abuse. 

These movements do not belong to my system, but they must 
be studied and guarded against. And, remember, there is 
nothing bad in fencing, provided that it succeeds. 


In the use of arms, as in war, you must expect nothing to 
be given to you. You must follow the good old plan of taking 
whatever your friend cannot keep, and, when the lion's force 
fjiiks, then, as the old saying is, follow the fox. 

And now I will place before you two pictures, and crave your 
judgment of the contrast. 

The first is an assault between two of those academical 
students so dear to the soul of our friend Seaton. Both are in 
the highest state of training, in art as in physique. They stand 
firmly upon their feet like "stone-gals," both equally disdain 
to retreat, and consequently neither need advance. In this 
perilous position feint follows feint, parry parry, pass pass ; 
simple attack ends in compound attack, and vice versa. The 
body, perfectly balanced, has never moved from the perpendi- 
cular ; the admirably taught fingers and hand, wrist and fore- 
arm, have added an extreme delicacy to the nice conduct of the 
sparkling blade. You follow the glittering flight of the point 
with a manner of marvel ; you are at first lost in admiration. 
But this lasts only till the few first passes are delivered and 
parried. Then begins a sense of weariness. Nothing in this 

90 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

triumph of mechanism moves or excites you; there is nothing 
in these carpet knights to make your finger tips tingle or your 
hand feel for a sword. It is interesting as a game of chess 
between first-rate players, and that is all. 

You have looked upon that picture, now turn to this. The 
pair is equally skilful and well matched, but the system is 
widely different. 

Remark the style. Instantly when the swords are crossed 
within measure both place themselves in safety. Far from 
standing with firm foot and blade to blade, each chooses his own 
distance. With the eyes of the lynx and the glance of trained 
intelligence, they watch, they question, they examine each 
other. There is a slight approach, the swords meet, a lunge, 
quick as lightning, flashes ipast your look. The attack was 
cunningly contrived and forcibly carried out ; but a sharp step 
backwards, perhaps a spring with both feet from the ground, 
ritrarse in stancio, as the Italians call it, and a parry which 
makes the weapons grind, defeated the thrust, and prepared for 
a return of compliment. It is a struggle between sturdy com- 
batants, " rough customers" they would be called in the dialect 
of another exercise ; supple and subtle, ardent and energetic as 
they are sturdy, calling to their aid all the resources of their 
art, the stores of their experience, the knowledge of their 
powers, and the suggestions of their individuality. 

You will agree with me that this is fencing in earnest. What 
you have before seen is cunningly playing at fence. 


These innovations cannot fail to gain ground ; they have 
suddenly enlarged, as modern science ever must do in all that 
she attempts, a field which formerly had narrow limits. As 
yet, however, they are recognised only by the general remark : 

" Fencing has gained in difficulty what it has lost in grace. 
M:" Un tel is a difficult swordsman." 

May I ask why one of these qualities should exclude the 
other? Would you own that the graceful fencer is easy to 
conquer ? I suppose that you mean by difficult, hard to touch, 
dangerous in his play. Well, then, with all my love of and 
admiration for the grace of an Antinous, I should much (prefer, 
supposing that the combination were beyond my power, the 
vigour and "difficulty" that lack it. 

But the whole idea is founded upon a mistake. Grace is the 
result of form ; and manly grace, robust and energetic, that of 
the athlete, that which distinguished our doughty ancestors, is 
the progeny of strength united with shapely lines. The boor 
may have both, and be ungraceful withal; but we are not 
speaking of the untrained man, who bows servile over his 
mother darth. 

I would risk martyrdom at the hands of the theorists, and 

The Sixth Evening. 91 

still say, "Above all things, be dangerous, be 'difficult,' since 
that is the expression consecrated by use. Beyond this quality 
there is no salvation ; all the rest is a mere fantasia, a weapon 
loaded with powder and lacking ball." 

But my words must not be strained to mean more than they 

They exhort you to follow the instincts of your nature, the 
inspiration of your thought; to be, in a word, yourself, not a 
living lesson, the pale reflex of a master. Avoid the classical 
style a systematic, artificial, and acrobatic exercise, without 
judgment or settled purpose. Shun as carefully the brutal 
style, which rushes upon the adversary like the bounding of a 
wild beast. 

It would be as wrong to take such exceptions for our models 
as it is unjust to use them in attacking the innovations of the 
modern system. 

The soi-disant fencer may touch a swordsman once or even 
twicei by surprise or by chance for chance, I repeat, plays its 
part in fencing as in other affairs of life. But the art of arms 
cannot stoop to notice certain styles which may be termed the 
fisticuffs of the sword ; eccentricities without value, the spawn 
of their own ignorance, which admit no principle, which belong 
to no system, and which have their roots nowhere. Still, you 
may never undervalue your enemy a saying worth repeating 
a thousand times ; you must learn to conquer him and his irre- 
gularities ; only after victory you may despise these vagaries. 

Here, again, is one of the broad lines which separates the two 
systems. The new is admitted into certain houses of the 
Faubourg Saint Germain; but under a kind of protest, like a 
man whose place in "society" is not quite defined by the 
Peerage, the Baronetage, and the Landed Gentry. But I can 
assure you that, though it chooses to rank amongst the roturiere 
and the parvenus of progress, it comes from an old and noble 
stock. And if it did not, still, the garden rake cannot keep 
out the tide. 

" Haven't we gone far enough into this part of the subject? " 
asked Shughtie. He was right. Progress is still a kind of war- 
cry, and not a few of the ancien regime not only deny its 
existence, but also look upon it as a polite invitation to tread 
upon the tails of the progressive man's coat. 

I have said it once, and I say it again the device of the man 
who uses a rapier is the maxim consecrated by Moliere. Let 
science teach him to touch well, to touch according to all her 
rules. But, above all things, let her show him how not to be 
touched, badly or well, by the first ignoramus who takes sword 
in hand. 

To turn one's eyes from this point, which is the very end and 
aim of the Art of Arms, is equivalent to losing oneself in a 
chaos of darkness. The utile must come before the dulce. And 

92 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

he must be excused, even he who u,pon such a subject airs his. 
Horace, in the presence of the other sex. 


A few words upon the subject of our tools. 

The origin of the foil is unknown. We can only say that it 
was at first the Toledo or Spanish rapier with " bated " end ; 
that it is popularly, and perhaps erroneously, attributed to 
Maestro Ricconi, of Siena; that it became goneral in the early 
part of the seventeenth century, and that shortly afterwards it 
was provided with a button. But this is a debated matter, 
of which I have treated elsewhere. The Plastron was 
begun as un petto di cartone ; it is alluded to by Morsitato 
(1670), and a modern writer wonders if men did not perspire in 
those mediaeval times. Till the first half of the last century 
the wire safe for the face had not been adopted. Let me quote 
what L' Encyclopedic of A.D. 1755 says upon the subject under the 
word " Masque " : 

" On a quelquefois pousse la precaution jusqu'a mettre un 
masque pour se garantir des coups qui peuvent etre portes au 
visage, lorsqu'on s'exerce a 1'art de 1'escrime. II est vrai que 
ceux qui sont encore ipeu verses dan cet art peuvent b Lesser leur 
adversaire en tirant mal, ou se faire bleeser en relevant une 
botte mal paree. Cependant on n'en fait aujourd'hui aucun 

The article evidently re-echoes the ideas which were ppnerallv 
admitted at the time. To out on a mask was to show the 
adversary that you feared the result of his awkwardness ; it 
was a precaution which bordered upon the offensive. Possibly, 
also, behind it lurked the instinct that it is not manly to take 
too much care of oneself ; to Rareyfy (1) when you should break 
a horse. This was, in fact, what an African king said to me 
when I proposed a way of handling trade muskets which would 
prevent them from shattering his men's hands. 

" The wreteh ! " said Lady Mary ; " I should so much like to 
hear the story." 

You shall be obeved when I have got rid of the mask. In 
those days of the good old school, which perhaps, Lady Mary, 
you will be surprised to hear is so far from extinct that it shows 
many signs of vigorous life; in those antiquated times, still re- 
flected by our own, fencing was a series of feints, of attacks, of 
parries, and of riposts, previously calculated and combined 
like "openings" in games of skill. One move inevitably 
brought on another. The man who during the early part of the 
performance, the manoeuvring phase, dared, instead of curiously 
following the labyrinth traced by the enemy's blade, to lunge 

(1} Rarey was a famous horse-tamer in the late fifties and early 
sixties, whose system was ridiculed in Puitcli, 

The Sixth Evening. 93 

with a home thrust in fact, to leap the hedge would have been 
In itl un tvdesque, an ignare, an incremental form of the 
ignorant, and would have been ignominiously turned back to his 

Another safeguard to both fencers was the classical and 
academic height to which the right hand was condemned by 
public taste. One of the greatest compliments paid to the far- 
famed Saint Georges by his favourite maitre d'armes, M. la 
Boessiere, pere, was upon the elevation of his hand, and the 
result that he never touched a man in the face. Yet towards 
the end of the Chevalier's short life (he died from neglecting 
his health at the age of fifty-four) the mask had gradually 
grown into fashion. 

It was, however, only a tin plate, with peep-holes, recom- 
mended by the professors to the lower order of scholars 
Presently it so happened that three matires d'armes lost one eye 
each in rapid succession. The wire face-safe was then adopted, 
and M. La Boessiere, fils, claims it for his father. But the old 
regime groaned over the degeneracy of those latter days. And 
still it groans. Now the fencing mask is shall I again say 
was ? worn even at the Roman carnival to defend the face 
from sweetmeats of chalk and lime. 

The origin of the leather jacket remounts to the days of 
defensive armour ; it was the jerkin used under the coat of mail 
for comfort; so the Turkish tarbush, which my friend the 
good Shepherd of Cairo would call a " tarbrush," was the 
nucleus of the turban in the heroic age of the race. 

I strongly object to the sandal, or fencing shoe, with a long 
projecting leather, which is supposed to assist the right foot in 
making a resonant sound. Practice does this with the common 
cricketing shoe easily and loudly enough, provided the sole is 
thin, but not too thin for protecting the foot. And those who 
wish to avoid a profligate waste of muscle should use the elastic 
connections between the heel piece and the sole invented 
(ritrovato?), I believe, by the late Mr Dowie. They say that he 
was not allowed to patent them because they might be useful to 
the army, so the army is left without its elastics and Mr Dowie 
without his patent. 

Finally, the heel of the left sandal should be somewhat higher 
than the right, as it saves fatigue and gives aplomb and 
mobility to the foot; yet many masters deprecate the use of it 

The glove is mostly of two kinds, the common leather of 
tho Italian school, whose foil has a shell hilt, and the padded 
back rendered necessary by the double loops of the French 
weapon. Both may or may not have wrisb pieces of stiff leather, 
and for broadsword these should extend to the elbow there 
are few tilings more unpleasant than a cut, even with a blunt 
edge on the " funny bone." Do not think these matters trifling; 

94 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

I have seen bad wounds given by broken blades, when a little 
caution might have prevented regrettable accidents. 

Having digressed so far without being recalled by public dis- 
approbation, I will venture upon one farther excursus. Against 
the new system of small arms, which began with Minie, body 
armour is held useless; possibly the same will eventually be the 
case with plated ships, which will be band boxes built in any 
number of compartments. But for the " white weapon " 
flexible coats of mail are still made in all the capitals of Europe, 
and there should be scant shame in using a precaution which 
the Duke of Wellington and Prince Bismarck, to mention 
only two of many, did not disdain. In the Franco-Prussian 
war plates of thick hide, literal cuirasses, with an angle to the 
fore, were found useful in 'deflecting the conical balls of modern 
warfare, from the ohest and stomach. For broadsword, especially 
in the East, where the crooked sabre never allows a thrust, a 
few curb-chains may be so disposed as to make the wearer 
almost invulnerable. A pair should cross the head; one on each 
side should run from the top of the jacket or tunic collar to the 
shoulder end down the whole sleeve, and it would be better to 
have another line more in front, defending the collar-bone ; 
your Oriental affects only two cuts, the shoulder blow and the 
" kulam," or leg slash. The latter is made vain by a chain 
extending from the hip to the foot. 

Thus, the limbs are adequately protected against any average 
danger without the risk of splinters, or links of iron being driven 
into the wounds by stray bullets. I need hardly remind you 
that the chains: to be of full use must be sewn inside the cap 
and dress, and that the less said about their presence the better. 
I have proposed these precautions, both the cuirass and the 
chains, half a dozen times, and some day they will be adopted. 

The following paragraph appeared in most of the London 
papers : 

" Capt. R. F. Burton suggests certain precautions in fighting 
the Ashantees in the following terms : ' During the last Franco- 
Prussian war several of my friends escaped severe wounds by 
wearing in action a strip of hard leather, with a rib or angle 
to the fore. It must be large enough to cover heart, lungs, 
and stomach pit, and it should be sewn inside the blouse or tunic ; 
of course, the looser the better. Such a defence will be especially 
valuable for those who must often expose themselves in " the 
bush " to Anglo- Ashantee trade-guns loaded with pebbles and 
bits of iron. The sabre is hardly likely to play any part in the 
present campaign, or I should recommend my system of curb- 
chains worn across the cap, along the shoulders, and down the 
arm and legs.' " 


That portion of my audience, which may be called the Cigarette, 
had listened with exemplary patience to what could have offered 

The Seventh Evening 95 

but scant interest. I was sorry for it, but it was my "duty," 
as people say when they are preparing disagreeables, to apply 
the misericordc to my ancient enemy the Old School at this 
last opportunity when the coup de grace might be feasible. 

I will not delay you longer. A few general remarks shall end 
this evening's conversazione. 

Not many years ago the excessive use of feints, as you have 
already learned, was held in highest honour. But the whirligig 
of time now shows another face. The tacit convention between 
fencers, which made it a point of politeness for one to follow 
wherever the other led, has gone out of fashion that is out 
of the world. If you manoeuvre too much, I make an opposition 
of the sword, and lunge home without a word of apology ; or I 
extend my arm and touch you with a stop thrust in the midst 
of your flourishes and arabesques. 

These are passes which are now taught in the salles, and which 
appear in every nodern treatise. 

The old system possessed the merit of being well suited to 
its own formal age, when men had still to learn the art and 
mystery not of governing, but of being governed. The abuse 
led to strangely despotic theories, which, like the well-known 
front of brass and feet of clay, were obliged to succumb when 
the lieges succeeded in mastering the secret of its anatomy. It 
has been overthrown, perhaps, with some unnecessary violence : 
hence heart burnings, wrath, and quarrels, and, perhaps, the 
lingering belief that the old idol deserved a somewhat more 
tender treatment, prevents its being quite broken up, even to 
this day. 

" And now that we know all about the sentiment of the 
sword," said Lady Mary, "I do wish you would tell me about 
the Amazons and that horrid King of Dahomi." 

It was very kind and flattering. But . . . nothing shall 
persuade me to repeat what I did say. 


THE day had been rainy, too rainy for shooting, riding, and 
driving in anything but a shut carriage, and that is not 
amusing. We sought " indoor recreations," which at the 
Castle were manifold, and whilst the others " did " the 
picture galleries, the muniment rooms, and the library, 
besides the stables, the billiard-room, and the smoking- 
room, Seaton and I had a quiet talk and a peaceful bout of 
tierce and carte. Both preferred to be alone. When a " ring " 
is formed emulation is roused, and men fence, not for instruc- 
tion, but for victory. We went through the regular lesson, 
whilst I ohowed him the modifications proposed for modern 
practice, and we tried the " best of twelve," he fencing as a 

96 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

Frenchman against me, a Neapolitan. That he was completely 
worsted, run through the body, riddled like beef pique, was not 
his fault, but that of his school ; moreover, being short armed, 
he was unprepared for the constant stop-thrust. 

He carried his defeat like a man and a swordsman, only 
remarking, " That's all very well, but it's not fencing. You 
touch me, but you don't fence." I saw that this position could 
neither be assaulted nor flanked nor taken in the rear, so we 
said au revoir and promised each other a full amount of 
difference of opinion in the smoking-room. 

The number of guests was greater than usual, so great, 
indeed, that the party naturally divided itself into two. Those 
who took no interest in detached observations upon swordsman- 
ship were grouped on the left of the spacious fireplace. At 
times, however, our party was reinforced by a stray secessionist, 
whilst the other was not. 


The mine developed by an energetic and an intelligent swords- 
man who carefully cultivates his individuality, and who gives 
himself up to his inspirations, is practically inexhaustible. The 
details neither should nor, indeed, can be attempted ; they 
belong to a man's intuition, his sentiments, his moral and 
physical organisation. It is simply impossible to provide a 
pupil with I'd propos, le genie des armes except by actual 
experience, but we may consider the subject as a whole. 

I have spoken to you of parries and riposts. You know what 
can be expected from the tact of the sword the sentiment de 
I'epee and the electricity of the look. You are aware that the 
intelligence of man seizes upon Science, the fruit of his study 
and experience, and compels her to obey him; that in all the 
combinations which he invents, and the calculations which he 
meditates, he cross-examines her, he penetrates into her secrets, 
and he fashions her to his proper purpose until he has won the 
thing he wills. I have pointed out the secret of success self- 
confidence, wariness, and calm and calculated energy. 

It remains now to say a few words upon attacks. Attacks 
made by advancing are more dangerous, let me repeat, than 
parries. You instinctively feel that you are exposed instead 
of making the enemy expose himself. The great difficulty, 
which only etudy and experience can solve, is to know how 
much may be risked and to proportion your venture to the gain 
expected. I need not warn you that in fencing, as in human 
life, Null-urn numen adest si absit prudentia a golden rule hardly 
enough applied to the many failures which seem to cumulate 
every condition of success. 

" Ahem ! " John Shughtie observed with an unpleasant laugh. 

Nor is it necessary to point out that prudence directed by 
reason is not to be confounded with indecision, but to prudence 

The Seventh Evening. 97 

you must add familiarity with swordsman-life. It is indis- 
pensable to leave no style untried, even those which hardly 
deserve the name, or, to speak more clearly, which are utterly 
undeserving of it ; still, these bastards exist, and you must not 
allow them to boast of victory, or to enjoy well-founded con- 
fidence in their own results. It is this part of our art, without 
which no sworder should consider himself at the height of his 
organisation, that requires six years instead of six weeke. 

It is due to the moral power of the sword that those who 
know nothing, or the mere elements of it, should not be per- 
mitted to fancy themselves capable, by means of mere energy 
or blind vivacity, of successful defence against a hand familiar 
with weapons. Confidence, the strength of strength, should not 
be left to the share of ignorance at the expense of knowledge. 
And ignorance can surprise only the one-sided man who has 
accustomed himself to nothing beyond the regular routine of 
passes and parries. 

A general fault which I see in the Salles is- the following: 
The habitues cross ewords, fall on guard, and proceed without 
reflection to heap feint upon feint, pass upon pass, thrust upon 
thrust, attack upon attack, parry upon parry. I judge them 
at once. They may have rapidity of hand and fineness of 
execution, but only the half the man, the so-called physical 
half, is engaged in the fray. It is inordinately rare to find a 
pupil who has taught himself (for the masters do not teach 
what we call malice) to keep out of measure, now refusing to 
give his blade, then giving it suddenly and oppressing that of 
his adversary with confidence and resolution ; who has learned 
by indispensable tentative movements and cunningly devised 
demi-attacks to interrogate the swordsman opposed to him ; 
and who by cumulating arguments by a Sorites, as the logic 
men call it so confounds the adversary that he can no longer 
conceal weakness or strength. 

Man should imitate the cock and the bull, and be wise. See 
the former in its poultry yard, the latter in its pasture, how 
they both before beginning a fray observe and measure the foe, 
each seeking to secure some advantage, whilst their sparkling 
eyes and wandering looks prospect the place upon which to 
plant the deadliest blow. 

Who taught them so to act, instead of rushing precipitately 
upon each other ? What man terms instinct, another word for 
reason, the former being the lower, the latter the higher, action 
of a brain, or spinal marrow, or nervous system, or tout 
ensemble, or whatever the psychologist of the future shall 
determine to be the causa causans, with less grey matter, or 
fewer folds, or shallower convolutions, or, again, whatever may 
make the difference. So Reason proudly looks down upon 
Instinct and says, "You are a lower order of being; you and 
I are not of the same flesh and blood. I " 

98 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

" Metaphysics? " Shughtie interrupted. 

A thousand pardons for so forgetting myself ! Well, this 
Instinct, with a capital I, is the teacher, this love of life, this 
idea of self-preservation which exists in all organic nature. 
And from instinctives we reasonables may take a useful lesson. 

You easily understand how much you disturb by this prudent 
reserve the movements of a man who is taught, " As soon as 
you are on guard, before your adversary has time to think, at 
him with a home thrust ! " Or of this other, whose only 
thought is to throw himself like the avenger of blood upon his 

However little such heads may be capable of reflecting, both 
will soon succeed in seeing that the distance between you and 
themselves, physical as well as moral, will prevent anything 
like a jeu de surprise. If they attempt it their movements will 
be disordered ; they will run upon the extended sword, or, at 
least, they will show you that they are coming on to the attack. 

"How many years do you think it'll take at this rate?" 
asked Seaton, "before new theories '11 overturn these so-called 
novelties, overturn and turn them into vieilleries? " 

Such is the fate of everything. The form may, perhaps, 
nay, certainly will, change, but the foundation, the ruling idea, 
must survive, for the idea is immortal and eternal 

Emerging from the storm, 
Primaeval Faith uplifts her changeful form, 
Mounts from her funeral pile on wings of flame, 
And soars and shines another and the same. 

" Eh ? " said Shughtie. 

Here is a fair proof that the oldest system contained the 
embryo of the new, as the new contains that of the newer. 
It dates from some two centuries ago, and it speaks thus of the 
marches or advances: 

" La raison pourquoy on observe cette inegalle quantite de 
pas est qu'on tient, par oe moyen, 1'advereaire tousiours en 
suspens et incertain de ce que nous ferons. Car si nous 
poursuivons nostre action touiours d'une mesme maniere et 
aveo mesrne quantite de pas, il pouroit estre que 1'ennemy 
feroit bien son conte qu'il nous attraperoit, non seulement en 
la place ou il nous void, mais ausei en cette ou il S9auroit qu'il 
nous faudroit venir ; ce qui lui est, par ce moyen, empesche." 

One would imagine that these words were written not in 
the seventeenth century, but in our own. Certainly, no pro- 
fessor, however first rate, could express himself more clearly 
or more concisely. 

Yet, as I before remarked, the weapons of those days were 
very different from what we use; they were heavy cut-and-thrust 
blades, single or double-handed. But the rules of judgment and 
prudence and stratagem were the same, and so will they be 
two hundred years hence. 

The Seventh Evening. 99 


I must here mention a fatal habit which is general in French 
salles d'armcs, and universal in English fencing rooms. The latter 
may be excused because, as the negroes say, they are " fencing 
for fence," but not the former. 

When a thrust has been driven home, the pupil who has 
been touched makes some sign of acknowledgment, and the 
victor, instead of sharply recovering himself and standing upon 
the defensive, either drops his point or slowly resumes guard. 
How often we see, even in assaults, a ripost follow a successful 
pass so quickly as to be almost simultaneous, and get home 
chiefly because there has been undue neglect in returning 
carefully and quickly en garde. 

How often it has happened that a man mortally hurt has with 
his last thrust killed his antagonist, and, indeed, he is justifiad 
in so doing by all the laws of the duello. Remember that the 
wound leaves always a second or two before the effects show 
themselves in dropping the weapon, staggering or collapsing 1o 
the ground. 

"Our soldiers soon found that out in the old Arabian and 
Afghan campaigns," said Shughtie. " Many a lancer lost his 
right arm after running through the body one of the Yownsmi 
pirates, as we call the Kawasim still. And the sturdy robber of 
the Bolan Pass will say to you, ' Adam bi - yeb kurd na mi- 
ufiad ' a man doesn't (mustn't?) fall from a single knife stab." 

"Yes, and in the 'Trucker Campaign,'" added Seaton, "how 
many poor fellows were cut down by the wild Baluch swordsman 
because they did not learn bayonet exercise ; whilst some ' clubbed 
their muskets," that is to say, used the pommel instead of the 
point of the sword, others thrust so violently that the weapon 
couldn't be drawn back without applying leg and foot as a lever." 

Infandum jubes, &c. Seaton ! I was the first to point that 
out in my bayonet exercise published shortly after the " Affair 
of the Hills,'' and what was the result? A succession of official 
" wigs " from the " Hall of Lead," and, when the system was 
forced into the Army by public opinion, a letter from the 
Treasury, large as an average poufolio, and with a seal the 
size of a crown piece. And what dc you think it contained? 

" An order for 100, I suppose, 1 ' said Lord B. 

No! A shilling. 

* * * * * * 


After a decent and decorous pause enabling me to recover from 
tho shock of such a reminiscence, Seaton continued : 

" You're more tractable this evening, which may come from 
having taken that shilling. I've heard you often talk of the 
stop-thrust ; surely you must own that in your new and natural ( ?) 
system it is grossly abused." 

100 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

Or rather misused, I replied, which means much the same 
thing. The fact is, the stop thrust is rather instinctive than 
reasoned, and so it easily becomes the resource and the refuge of 
those who cannot parry. But, observe that it is a most danger- 
ous position, from which it is very difficult to dislodge the enemy. 

Speaking Science, I cannot for a moment support a style of 
play which is ever outstretching the sword without reason. But 
that does not render it less imperative upon us to study how to 
escape the difficulty. For which purpose let us analyse the 

The treatises divide the coup de temps, or time-thrust, into 
three ; the coup d'arret, or stop- thrust, and the coup sur le 
temps. But as the latter is worse than useless, and generally 
ends in both fencers being touched, I will speak only of the 
coup d'arret and the coup de temps, the time-thrust proper. 

The coup d'arret, or tension d'epee, is justified only when the 
antagonist advances upon you imprudently, when he indulges 
in long compound attacks, aud when he shortens the arm in 
fact, generally when he exposes his body. Yet it is the pet 
movement of those who, on settled principles, cleave to the 
defensive. I admire this simple extension of the point when 
neatly done, because of the judgment and coup d'ceil which it 
requires. But my approval is given solely upon the condition 
that during the same assault there must not be, as often 
happens, a succession of failures. Otherwise it is clear to me 
that chance has been the only guide. Great sobriety is required 
in the use of this pass, unless your antagonist lays himself open 
by violent and disorderly attacks, by the jeu dur, and by con- 
vulsive movements which you have artfully exaggerated. As 
a feint, you may be less sparing of it, because it shows him that 
you are on the alert, and that he must not expect to charge 
you with good result. 

The coup de temps is a parry and pass of opposition taken at 
the end of an attack, when you have divined the line which the 
sword will prefer. This anticipation of the opponent's lunge 
is taught in every school, but you rarely see it used except 
by a skilful sword playing with a beginner. It is the most 
dangerous of its kind, leaving you utterly undone if you have 
mistaken the adversary and who in such matters must not 
expect to make mistakes? Again, it often leads to double 
thrusts, when both are touched. I would willingly see this 
objectionable movement banished from the schools, even as an 
exercise. It never can equal the true parry which, if at first 
misjudged, can at any rate be continued or repeated. And for 
one time-thrust of intrinsic value how much false coin has been 
put into circulation? 

An easy way of discouraging these feints is by the lunge 
backwards (se fendre en arriere). It is done by sharply retiring 
the left foot and inclining the body, so that the adversary's sword 

The Seventh Evening. 101 

passes harmless over the head. This movement has been falsely 
reported to be an upstart, an innovation due to the system 
purposely decorated with the style and title of Romanticism. It 
is old, very old ; and if it is not proved to have been used by thfc. 
Greeks, it is not, therefore, the more modern. 

Briefly, whenever you find an opponent who is addicted to 
stepping you on all occasions, never attack him, without 
vigorously mastering his sword, by a croise, a battcment, a 
liement (Tepee, a prcssion, or a flanconnade. This will reduce him 
to impotence, if, at least, he is unwise enough to give you the 
sword. Or you may proceed by a false engagement, your weak 
being opposed to his strong, or again by a demi-attack which is 
safe enough if freely marked. Either the adversary comes to the 
parry or he extends the sword ; you then take possession of it, 
being careful never to quit it, and, above all things, not to 

I am speaking scientifically, you will observe, of these various 
"stoppings." If a man says to me, "I know very little of 
fencing, but I defend myself as I can," he is welcome to all the 
faults he fancies ; indeed, these are his right and his only science. 

But the complete swordsman must not make faults, or rather 
he must avoid them as much as possible. 


"What is your opinion," said Lord B., "of what 
the French call Ics bottes secretes, and why they are not taught 
in the schools? " 

The latter part of the question is easily answered. If they were 
taught they would no longer be secret. But I hasten to say 
that I do not believe in bottc secrete, any more than in the 
parata universale or in the Philosopher's Stone. Par 
parenthcsc, the word botte has lately been pronounced too trivial' 
for the art of arms, and we are ordered to say coup; the 
i Italians are not so fastidious. 

" Yet there must be some foundation for their existence, as the 
idea is so generally leceived." 

Perhaps I would rather say the possibility of their existence. 
It is a phantom which comes straight from the Hispano-Italian 
school, which, as has been aid, is still, though notably modified, 
the base, the point de depart, of our modern system. 

In France we often hear of a master who " possesses, they 
say, sword bottes secretes." A. challenge has paased, and one, 
perhaps both, of the combatants will go to him for advice, and 
both probably learn the same. 

These passes, improperly called secrets, are mere irregu- 
larities that do not belong to everyday practice. So far I 
admit them, but no farther. The ignotwn is not only their 
solo strength, but their single chance of success. Remove this 

F 2 

102 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

false prestige, and they will become not merely harmless to 
you, but proportionally dangerous to him who uses them. 

I will divide them into two categories the attacks and those 
that oppose or follow the attacks. Sometimes an adversary 
will during the attack suddenly withdraw his arm so that you 
parry in the air, and then rush upon you, leaping to the side 
and thrusting at the flank. Or, after a falso attack, he will 
bend to the ground so as to avoid the ripost which passes over 
hie head and strikes vou in the low lines because you are 
unprepared for this sudden disappearance. Old "dodges," 
these mere revivals and not survivals of the fittest. 

Others, again, before the onslaught, make a resonant appel, 
utter a loud ha ! ha ! or a piercing and violent cry, an urlo 
like the houp-la or the Pistache in the hunting field, at the 
same time withdrawing the sword. The start perhaps causes 
an unwary -adversary to stop involuntarily, and thus he is 
buttoned, no matter where, no matter how. Others, again, 
after mastering the blade, make a demi-volte to the fore by 
bringing the circolata left foot in front of the right, and thus 
reversing the position of the body. It is a venerable practice of 
the Italian school, at least three centuriee old. 

So much for the attack. If, on the contrary, these movement* 
are directed against the attack they are simply inverted. For 
instance, I lunge freely at my adversary, who, instead of 
parrying, springs out of line to right or left. Nothing is before 
me ; sword and body are both absent ; my attack is lost in the 
void, and the opposite blade is in my stomach or my flank. 
This so-called " eecret bout" was still taught during my 
boyhood in the French salles d'armes. Now it would be looked 
upon as irregular and almost as illegal. 

Again, my adversary bends to the ground, supported by his 
left hand, allows my sword to pass over his head, and thrusts me 
in the low lines. This Sbasso, or Sparita, was also a favourite 
with the Neapolitan school, and, for aught I know, is so still. 
And, yet again, my adversary beats down my sword, makes a 
demi-volte to the front, and before I can spring backwards or 
recover my guard raises hie hand in old tierce and thrusts 
downwards the venerable Imbroccata. 

I could infinitely multiply such instances, but, as you eee, 
all these " bouts " proceed almost by the same means, and 
differ only in detail. And you will understand without demon- 
stration what a " neck or nothing " game it is how completely 
a failure plays into the opponent's hand. The sole danger of 
these movements consists in the resolution and the recklessness 
of one who risks all upon a single throw. 

" Yet wouldn't they be doubly dangerous if used by a strong 
man against a weak ? " asked Claude. 

Doubtless, although I should hope that the strong man would 
not make use of them. If he stands before an ignorant fencer, 

The Seventh Evening. 103 

what need has he of such stratagems? If, on the other hand, 
his opponent be of equal ability and sang-froid he cannot 
forget how much he throws away in case of failure. 

I must again draw your attention to a golden rule in the 
6tudy of the sword. The first preoccupation of the man who 
attacks should be never so to commit himself that if his 
attempt happen to miscarry he cannot once more return to 
safety. In other words, never attack in such a way that you 
cannot defend yourself against the ripost. 

Want of faith, then, is one of the most essential points in our 
difficult art. It is equivalent to the study of your adversary; 
it not only removes a host of dangers from yourself, it also 
transfers them to him who opposes you. 

We may fairly pronounce the "secret bout," like the 
churchyard ghost, to have been laid at rest for ever by Science, 
who goes her ways without another thought upon the subject. 
To revive the defunct would be a return to old traditions and 
to systems which were the property of past ages. In these 
days the botte secrete suggests a something of treachery, and no 
man of honour would purchase victory at such a price. 

These are individual opinions, but honour is an individual 
code which a man draws up for himself according to his 
conscience and his sense of right. He certainly does not and 
should not borrow it from his neighbour. 

In the world where we live there is a host of things which 
lie upon the debateable borderland, the frontier line between 
right and wrong, which are not cognisable by the law courts, 
but which are not the less subject to trial by public opinion. 
I knew a man who killed another in a duel by dropping his 
eword and looking behind the adversary as if the police were 
coming. The opponent fell into the trap, and received a thrust 
which caused his death within an hour. The manslayer could 
not be punished in the tribunals, but society took charge of the 
offence and excommunicated him. 

If some fatality forces you into the field, sword in hand, your 
victory must not give rise to the shadow of a question. The 
thrust which prostrates your adversary must be loyal as the 
bosom which he presents to you. I am not even certain that a 
friend of mine was justified in looking fixedly at the low lines 
of his antagonist, and then by a flip of the point, a sudden 
jerk of the hand, wounding him in the fingers. But actions must 
be measured by results, and as nothing more serious than first 
blood occurred the coup de Jarnac easily passed off. 

" Please be good enough to set me right," said Charley. 
" Does a ' Jarnac blow ' mean absomte treachery ? " 

Not quite. It is, properly epeaking, a surprise, a something 
that does not sound " nice," a " dodge," neither quite fair nor 
absolutely unfair. The story is this: A certain Chabot de 
Jarnac and Vivonne de la Chataigneraie, a noted duellist, 


104 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

having quarrelled about a certain fair person, fought with 
sword and shield en champ clos before Henri II. and the ladies 
of the Court (July 10, 1547). Vivonne made an imbroccata, or 
binding of the sword, with thrust from high to low line. 
Jarnac, a man of humble birth, who had taken lessons from an 
Italian, got within measure and delivered two hamstringing 
cute (fendcnte al poplite) right and left, and his opponent died 
of rage within two hours. Tho King, furious at the lose of a 
favourite, called it a coup de traitre. He was followed by his 
courtiers, and the expression has passed into everyday use. 
But Maro/zo (Chapter LXXXV.) had described the pass as 
un rcviscio scgato per le gambe, and in this very duel it wae 
provided for and foreseen the seconds had settled that a 
dagger was to be carried by way of guard in the left borzacchino 
(jack-boot). Henri II., however, ewore to forbid further single 
combats, and was accidentally killed in the Bame year by 
the Count de Montmorency. 

The only loyal approach to a "secret bout" is some personal 
modification of a recognised pass. Such, for instance, are the 
so-called "retrograde movements," passes and parries with 
the forearm withdrawn instead of being extended as usual. 
The complete swordsman studies his own physical powers and 
discovers the utmost use that can be made of them, thus 
technically called the jeu de temperament. One man is strongly 
made in the upper works and fines off below the torso. This, 
the French shape, will require a different method from the 
opposite or English make. The short man gains by standing 
upon the defensive, by advances within measure, by battements, 
croises, and parries in seconde. The tall man loses in attempt- 
ing to imitate him ; he should keep long measure and affect the 
time-thrust. You will easily see how far these considerations 
can be carried. I have, for instance, my own modification of 
une, deux, founded upon a heavy shoulder and an unusual 
supinator radii magnus, and it has more than once done me 
good service. 

"Will you kindly let us see it?" asked Seaton. 

No, my Seaton, I will not ! 


And now, having disposed of the bottc secrete, I must confess 
my perfect disbelief in the many current tales anent mail rex 
d'armes killed by conscrits. Such events may happen; BO in 
the street you may come to your death by a tile. 

"And Abyssinian Bruce," said Shughtie, "died of a fall 
when leading a lady downstairs to dinner." 

The stories have gained currency and credence through the 
ignorance of the narrator and the hearer. Nothing more 
appropriate for the brilliant, purposeless sea novels of Capt. 
Marryat than to mpke Mr Midshipman Easy quite sure of 

The Seventh Evening. 105 

success with the small sword, because he had never learned to 
use it. Nothing more natural for the exciting low-art military 
romances of Mr Lever's first phase than to show the British 
Ensign, whose knowledge of weapons was probably limited to 
a bout with singlestick, triumphantly defeat the French captain, 
a finished swordsman. But a rule of proportion, a page of 
statistics, would at once, believe me, disperse the illusion which 
has been, and which still may be, mischievous. 

When it does happen the fault is with the fencer who has not 
prepared himself for the occasion. Many men attend the 
schools for years and never take the trouble of trying the 
experiment how they would act if opposed to a vigorous and 
resolute man who has never had a sword in hand. The attack 
I would call it the wild-beast style when, as Tasso Bays, 
Toglie * * il furor Vuso del arte, may sometimes succeed by 
chance. I have heard of an English naval officer who, utterly 
ignorant ot the foil, when placed before his opponent began to 
use it like a horsewhip, and succeeded. A cooler and warier 
adversary would have spitted him like a lark. 

Another explanation, very patent and intelligible, especially 
after hearing Capt. Seaton's little accident, is the fatal facility 
with which the practised ewordsman despises his ignorant 
adversary. And we must not forget that mortal weapons level 
to a email extent all distinctions. The sharpened point 
resolutely presented at the face or the breast is always a most 
intelligible threat. The naked blade is a reality which dispels 
many a dream. Science still holds her own, but prudence and 
sang-froid, energy and animal courage, count for much in the 

This also is a good opportunity for a word about not mis- 
judging your enemy. Perhaps he turns pale, his hand trembles, 
and his fingers begin to twitch and fidget. Amongst savages, 
barbarians, and even semi-barbarians, like the " valiant Figg," 
these would be simply signs and symptoms of cowardice. But 
civilised peoples, in whom the purely nervous, the nervo-bilious, 
and the nervo-sanguine temperaments predominate, are not so 
to be judged. The brain may be working violently and the 
heart beating with unpleasant force, yet the settled purpose is 
there, and the abnormal state will last only till real danger 
shows itself. And you will probably find your man far more 
to be dreaded than one of the unimpressionables who go to the 
fray as they go to the feast. 

" How do you account for the strange fact," asked Shughtie, 
" that the bravest of men have been called cowards, Napoleon 
the Great, for instance, after the Bridge of Lodi, and the Duke 
of Wellington, the hero of a hundred fights. Possibly the same 
was said of Alexander and of Caesar by the frehiquets of Athens 
and Rome." 

You must allow much to envy, hatred, malice, and all manner 

106 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

of uncharitablenese. Besides which, men of the higher and 
the highest temperaments, who do not show certain marks 
of what is called euphemistically " nervousness " and who are 
utterly destitute of physical fear, are exceedingly rare. I have 
seen only two who could sit amongst the pattering of bullets and 
the clattering of swords without a shadow of change, external 
or internal. Everyone remembers the story of the Crimean 
officer who, pale and trembling whilst leading his company to 
the breach, was laughed at by his comrades, and who turned 
the laugh against them by standing his ground when they 
fell back. There are many different kinds, not a single kind, of 
courage, and in one especially, constancy under physical pain 
and even torture, women are generally far braver than men. 
Again, the same individual will vary at different times^ of his 
life. Rochester, a wit and a hero in youth, ended with the 
reputation of a wit and a poltroon. The opposite case is the 
more common, when a timid boy, possibly depressed by bad 
health, ill-treatment, or unwholesome conditions of life, develops 
like Abyssinian Bruce into a man of remarkable daring and 
sangfroid. A friend of mine always "contended," to use his 
own phrase, " against the effeminacy of civilised life " by acting 
upon an individual by-law : " Whenever you fear a thing, do 
it," and the "thing" ranged between a " teafight " and a 
combat a outrance. He had another more questionable maxim : 
" Always tell the truth when you are afraid of telling it." 
And doubtless familiarity with danger has so strong an effect 
upon some minds. In early youth I acted as " friend " to a 
brother ensign whose " nervous state " was such that he had 
to be assisted out of bed. This all passed away before his 
second " difficulty," and he eventually became, in fact, rather 
a troublesome fire-eater. 

"That," said Lord B., "is the national value of hunting, of 
foxhunting ; it keeps up the practice of incurring moderate 

" And Alpine climbing, glacier crossing, &c.," suggested 

" And African travel," quoth Seaton with a smile. 

I can hardly agree with the latter speaker, because what is 
gained in the habit of danger is lost in health of nerve. 

This led to a debate. As it again offered nothing new, the 
process of reporting would be supererogatory. 


I resumed when we had finished with nerves and nervousness. 

It is a mistake of the modern schools not to make more use 
of the true rapier in the lesson as well as in the assault. The 
weight is different, the blade is broad, straight, and com- 
paratively unelastic, and the change of weapons gives aplomb 
to the hand. In the present day there are many salles that 

The Seventh Evening. 107 

have never seen a pair of rapiers, and even duels are mostly 
fought with French foils, which I have called mere bent wires. 

" That wasn't the case with the old school," quoth Seaton. 

True, and here the march of reform has been far too rapid. 
The style of rapier-fencing at once changes. You have more of 
the extensive movements, and especially the parries of con- 
traction, indispensable to the Neapolitan school, but little used, 
or rather wholly disdained, by the French. 

Place these weapons in the pupils' hands, and already the 
assault no longer resembles that of the familiar foil. One 
would say that the rapier-blade, though buttoned and conse- 
quently harmless, has preserved a something of the real 
combat, the strife between man and man, the point of steel 
against the naked breast. 

It is no longer the careless exchange of thrusts, the tentative 
passes, the perilous ventures, often more brilliant and enter- 
prising than reason permits. Both adversaries, without render- 
ing an account to themselves, have looked upon the rencontre 
as a far more serious affair than usual, a sport approaching 
the earnest. Each, perhaps, says to himself, " Let's see how 
it would be if the swords had no buttons." 

The different mounting of the weapon, the peculiar strident 
sound, the strischio, of the edges that meet, produce at onoe 
their effect. The adversaries watch each other, study the move- 
ments opposed to them, and preface execution by threatening 
approaches. The weapons reflect their hands, the hands their 
thoughts, and both seem to speak with lips. You cannot fail 
to make this remark whenever you happen to "assist" at a 
meeting of the kind. 

If so great a difference is engendered by the mere change of 
harmless weapons, believe me the transition is far more abrupt 
from the buttoned blade to the pointed blade. 

The eccentricities and arabesques of the salles disappear, and, 
with the rare exceptions of men who cannot keep their tempers 
under any circumstances, a serious discretion takes the place 
of that recklessness whicb risks nothing but a thrust in the 
leathern jacket. This is a natural sentiment; the stakes are 
now of a very different kind. And on such occasions it is that 
men congratulate themselves upon familiarity with different 
styles of play, and do not think that time wasted which has 
been spent in the study of the bad as well as of the good. 


"You have" not yet enlightened us," said Lord B., "upon 
the subject of the left-handed fencer, concerning whom we 
hear so much." 

And I was about to neglect him because there is so little to 
say upon the subject. The Treatises, which are exceedingly 
prolix wherever they can be, here perforce fall back upon 

108 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

succinctness ; there exists absolutely no rule which can be per- 
sonally and exceptionally applied to the gauchcr. All you have 
to do is to reverse your play with him. 

" Then you do not think the difficulty so great as it is generally 
supposed to be? " 

There is certainly a relative difficulty, easy enough to explain, 
but it is not that of the born blind who on some (points can 
never thoroughly understand what they call "the sighted." 
One of my fencing friends, a left-handed man of course, used 
to declare that all the difficulty was the invention of right- 
handed men. The epigram was rather witty than wise ; 
evidently so complete a reversal of the usual style is a serious 
obstacle to those who have not the habit of practising it. 

The real and solid advantage of the gaudier is our being 
more familiar with right-handed men. Change this condition, 
and the pair are absolutely equal in their chances of victory. 
Two first-rate left-handed fencers are never at home with each 
other, and a droitier always fencing with qauchcrs would lose 
much of his skill against right-handed men. 

On the other hand, the serious disadvantage of the left- 
handed man, and one impossible to remedy, is that he presents 
the more dangerous side to the sword. Again, I doubt whether 
the conditions which cause a man to be left-handed are not 
obstacles to perfect manipulation. It would be interesting to 
see a list of first-rate left-handed painters and sculptors, swords- 
men and marksmen, billiard players, quoit players, and so 

The maitre (Tarmes may always annul the incognito of the 
left-handed man by representing him at times in lessons to 
his pupils. Some do so, and they do right. The pupils also, 
should they have leisure, must not neglect to work both sides 
of the body. 

" I think you advised the same in bayonet exercise," Shughtie 

Certainly. The want became evident to me when I saw a 
number of men in every regiment with right shoulders per- 
manently depressed by always carrying the musket on one side. 
And it is curious to feel how much good ten minutes with the 
left has done to the right, especially as regards the legs. 
Men are so apt to fit themselves into the grooves upon which 
they run smoothly, and to make habit something more than 
a second nature. I know dozens of good riders who would 
feel very awkward if compelled to mount a tall horse on 
the off side, like a tailor, as they say. 

And from my youth upwards I have ever been at war with 
" habits." What makes a man old fn what may be called the 
prime of life save habits, without the self-confidence, the pug- 
nacity, and the animal spirits to oppose them? Why are my 
contemporaries of Alma Mater for the most part bochi e relli, 

fne Seventh Evening. 109 

with bald heads and grey beards, with paunched eyes and worn 
countenances? They have risen before 9 a.m.; they have 
broken their fast between that hour and noon; they have 
lunched about 2 p.m. ; they have dined between 6 and 9, and 
they have found themselves in bed we will say before midnight. 
Whence, therefore, this premature look of antiquity? All are 
under middle age, which, however, supposes man to reach the 
century. The fact is that quiet domestic life 

" Shall we not," suggested Shughtie, " return to our 
gauchcrsl " 

A thousand pardons ! Can anyone tell me that the left- 
handed man has at his disposal a single pass or the shade of 
a parry which does not belong to the right-handed man? 
Certainly not. Only the latter, through want of practice, finds 
greater difficulty in adjusting his thrusts, for the simple reason 
that the inside of the arm becomes the outside and rice versa. 
The gaucher also always attempts to draw you on in carte, 
where he is quite at home, and if he be of fair force it is 
useless to attack him on that line or to encounter his counters 
of carte. His foible is in tierce, and he cannot defend his 
shoulder and flank like his breast ; he is also more vulnerable in 
the high than in the low lines. 

These are general rules known to every teacher. But you 
must not believe those who assure you that the left-handed man 
lacks variety of movements; this depends upon his individuality. 
If all ganchcrs resembled one another like the fingers of the 
same hand it would not be difficult to learn them by heart. 


No one contradicts me, no one even "differs in opinion" with 
me. I shall not last long if you give me my head in this way. 

I have tried not to omit anything which may please and 
interest those who love the sword, and those who feel that they 
might love it. My object has been to work out essential points 
and lines, and willingly to neglect that multiplicity of details 
which would overload the picture and sink the ensemble in its 
component parts. These details, I repeat, are the natural 
results of practice and experience; they are conquered, rather 
than learned, by the shock of steel with steel, by the variety 
of styles which offer themselves for study, and by the habit of 
meeting the sudden and unforeseen difficulties that may at any 
moment arise. 

Look at that debutant entering life, emerging from the 
chrysalis- state of school and college into the butterfly form 
called man of the world. How shyly he enters the room and 
acknowledges the hostess and mingles with the many. " Poor 
youth ! he is modest," say the ladies with that pitying charity 
which makes the grande dame so especially delectable. By no 
means, miladi ! He is suffering from what, perhaps, his seniors 

110 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

have forgotten, from self-consciousness which haunts him like 
his guardian angel. He, the great unknown, to be so unknown ! 
He, the macrocosm, to be so very microscopic ! Society would 
worship him as a demi-god if it only dreamed of his real, his 
unappreciable value. But how teach it to the world? He 
owns with a flush that he knows not perhaps this is the only 
thing that he does not know. So he flushes alternately and 
turns pale when that audacious virgin looks straight between 
his eyes ; he/ stammers and says the wrong thing, and he talks 
for talking sake, not daring to be silent, when that juvenile 
veteran of a matron amuses herself with drawing him out by 
way of keeping her hand in ; and he helplessly offers his arm, 
hating himself and her all the more for such weakness, when 
that old soldier, that " widow who has seen better days," tells 
him that she would willingly " go down to supper." 

Now see him after a single year. The virgin droops and 
drops her eyes before a steady glance which looks beyond her, 
which says " I know something more than you do." The pretty 
matron begins to think of him the first point gained and 
owns to herself that he is " very nice," that she wishes he would 
call a little oftener. And the dowager, emboldened by her 
first success, tries the manoeuvre once more, and duly finds 
herself anchored upon the arm of a far younger young friend. 

What has worked this marvel of transformation, of meta- 
moriphosis? Our debutant has entered into the struggle of life, 
and friction has begun the work of rounding off his angularities. 
He has associated with a host of fellow-creatures, some better, 
many inferior for he is still young to himself. He has found 
a standing point, and is no longer wandering vagrant-like about 
the circle. And the world, which, goodness knows ! can look 
deep enough when the trouble is justified, contents itself with 
remarking that in ease and savoir faire he has become one 
of themselves. 

It is the same with fencing. The art and finesse, the tact and 
a propos, come by themselves naturally and gradually, as 
feathers grow upon the young bird's wings. I will end with 
saying a graceful thing. Remember that the lesson and the 
plastron are your first masters, and never abandon them. This 
would be ungrateful, and ungraciousness and ingratitude is a 
flaw in the Perfect Swordsman. 



AT this seance Lord B. was not present ; he was dining 
at one of those feasts of plain roast and boiled and flow of 
heavy port and sherry, the prerogative and the high privilege 
of every English country gentleman who takes an intelligent 
interest in his party, his county, and his native land. 

The Eighth Evening. Ill 

"What have we for our evening?" asked Charley, after the 
occupation for the several places and the usual half-hour of 
preliminary chat which Seaton, who still loves curries and cleaves 
to the Oriental Club, despite the 8ge. a year, profanely calls 
" Gup." 

I really cannot say ; my budget is clean empty. 


After a long pause there was a murmur, which gradually 
shaped itself into these words : 

" If you are at an end, we shall not let you off so easily ; we 
have listened, and now we will question." 

Proceed, then, I replied. 

" What do you think of the relative merits of sword and 
pistol in the matter of duelling?" 

The answer would lead me far. In England we consider, 
or, rather, we considered, powder and ball to be, upon the 
whole, a fairer way of settling a dispute than steel. 

Possibly, I own ; but listen to the view from the other part, 
the words of young France. 

"It cannot be repeated too often that blind chance is not 
seldom the most powerful agent where we least expect its inter- 
ference. It is this fact which makes the duel with the sword, in 
my opinion, the only equitable and honourable form; the single 
process, in which the feebler of two men has always something 
to expect from his own energy, courage, and resolution." 

"In the duel with pirtols what a melancholy part is assigned 
to both combatants ! " 

" Energy serves for nothing ; courage becomes a useless weapon, 
and resolution only teaches a man to stand up like a target, and 
to await a bullet which he cannot stop. Under these circum- 
stances, faint heart is equal to stout heart; softness and 
effeminacy, even cowardice itself, can triumph over the highest 
bravery, the incarnation of manliness. The finger touches a 
trigger, and all is said." 

" The pistol duel has ever appeared to me a monstrous idea, 
and it is with joy that I see it disappear gradually, but 
surely, from amongst us, and lose root in our manners." 

" After all," said Seaton, " this is merely repeating in new 
words the old French knight's dictum that gunpowder was the 
grave of honour." 

Evidently, but the modern practice of France and of the 
Continent generally is to use the sword for lighter matters, the 
pistol for graver subjects of dispute. 

Yet it must be owned that the greatest skill in arms does 
not make the fencer invulnerable. To believe the contrary would 
be a strange abuse of self-confidence and a dangerous error. 

112 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

"Do you consider this an advantage or a disadvantage?" 
Seaton asked, evidently perplexed. 

In my opinion, it is the only thing which exalts, which 
ennobles fencing in the hour of battle ; even the feeblest find 
unforeseen chances of escape, protecting hazards, strokes of 
luck, which prevent the combat degenerating into manslaughter. 
If the science of arms were exact and mathematical, admit- 
ting rigorous demonstration like a theorem of Laplace, if an 
unparriable pass could be invented, where is the man who, 
certain of conquering his opponent without running a shade 
of risk, would universally and loyally draw upon him? 

"And what can an unhappy Englishman do," said Claude, 
alias "Jock," "who knows nothing of either sword or pistol?" 
1 see no difficulty. Do you remember the great Tom Cribb's 
answer to that parlous youth who asked him what was the 
best posture of defence: "Keep a civil tongue in your head!" 
Many Englishmen have lived abroad in the most troublous 
times, and yet have had the tact and good sense to keep out of 
quarrels. Of course, there are circumstances which make it 
absolutely and imperiously necessary for you to fight or to 
leave the town, in which case one" of your compatriots will 

probably take your place. At , in my day, poor Charley 

S., the best of friends to everybody but himself, organised a 
little circle with the object of keeping up the national reputa- 
tion. Whenever an Englishman was insulted by a foreigner, he 
was waited upon by the committee, and politely requested either 
\o fight or to run away. 

"And if he refused to. do either?" 

He was simply cut by everybody, which appears a sufficient 

" Still, I want to know how my ignoramus manages to save 
his life," persisted Claude. 

Some, like D. C., unhappily also gone, gallantly took the 
risk, and received a thrust in the arm. Other? as a rule pre- 
ferred the pisrtol, because every English gentleman shoots more 
or less, and the difference of a very few feet absolutely levels 
all distinction. At twenty- four paces everything is in favour of 
the practised shot; at twelve a large proportion; at six nothing. 
"But what about choice of weapons?" 

Everywhere the right resides with the challenged. A man, fix- 
ing a quarrel upon you, insults you ; you return it by a blow, 
pro forma, as it were, with your glove, and when he sends you 
the cartel you prefer pistols. 

Connected with their opinions upon providence and destiny, 
the duel became part of the national life. It then passed south- 
wards throughout Europe, where neither council, nor Pope, 
nor priest could abolish it. A hundred times anathematised 
and punished with terrible severity, the duel as often revived, 

YVie Eighth Evening. 113 

and reappeared under different shapes. If you ask me why, 
I answer, " Because ib was necessary for the age." 

At length, civilisation triumphed over the judicial or purely 
superstitious combat, and this ordeal became a mundane and 
secular thing, to be treated according to the fashion and the 
freak of time and place. 

In some countries, and at certain epochs, those who revived 
the obsolete appeal to the God of Battle, which, however, sad 
to say, Christian Europe retains in time of war, were subject 
to long and cruel imprisonment, or were put to death often with 
tortures. The same was the case with the seconds, who, in 
the Judicium Dei, attended their combatants, and, under cer- 
tain casualties, protected them with their shield?. 

Elsewhere the dueller, abusing its impunity, especially in the 
ages when swords hung by all sides we see a survival in our 
Court costume ran howling like a Bacchante through the streets 
and squares. It was good taste to mettre flambcrge au rent, by 
way of filling up, as it were, a leisure hour, and dwelling for a 
day in the mouths of men. These rufflers drew under the lamps, 
in the parks, everywhere, in fact, for a word, a riband, a bet, 
an anonyma, a nothing. And the seconds, who yesterday might 
have been the be?t of friends, cut one another's throats to-day. 

Every age seems to have its own follies and superstitions, its 
eccentricities and " white horse?," its peculiar phase of that 
which in the individual we should call an "obscure disorder cf the 
brain." But our times would look with anything but favour 
upon the " raffine," the Mohock, who took a pride in drawing 
his sword or in notching his saw-handles, "the same which we 
shot Capt. Marker." 

Yet what shows the ineradicable form of vitality residing in 
the personal appeal of the offended to the offender is this : almost 
throughout the civilised world, the duel, which arises about a 
point of honour pure and simple, which has for object not the 
death of the antagonist, but a man's self-approbation and self- 
esteem, and which cannot be traced in connection with anything 
unworthy or unfit for the ey<-s of the world, that form of obtain- 
ing satisfaction has outlived every phase of abu?e, both tha 
punishments! threatened to it and the excesses which merited 

Forgivo me this long prologue, or, rather, be grateful to me 
for not making it longer. To condense so vast a matter into 
a few minutes' of speech is not an easy ta?k. 

"Thanks! " was the general exclamation. 


"Strange," said Shughtie, "that a custom so clearly un- 
Christian as the duellb should obtain almost entirely amongst 
Christians. The old Greeks and Romans, the Hindus and 
Persians, the Egyptians and Chinese had their chance rencontres, 

114 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

like all semi-barbarians, they fought for 'best man,' but they 
had no regular duel. The Moslem, if obedient to his Apostle 
I won't say 'prophet/ a vulgar error will bear a slap of 
the face and run away rather than lift his hand upon a 
brother religionist. Against a Kafir, of course, the case is very 
different, but then the Koran says openly 'Slay them' (i.e., 
the unbelievers) ' wherever you shall find them.' The passage 
has been often glossed over, but there it stands." 

It is rather, I replied, ante-Christian than anti-Christian ; I 
can account for it only as a fragment of the Pagan temple, built 
up into the Christian Church. 

" At any rate," said Charles, " we've got rid of it in England. 
What do you think will be the result at home?" 

Simply nil. It had almost died out before the law was made so 
stringent, and, since the law has passed, there have, I believe, 
been as many duels between Englishmen as there were during 
the five years preceding it. Of course, they were fought abroad. 

Upon such a subject there cannot fail to be differences of 
opinion. Our friends of the Manchester, utilitarian, middfe- 
class school consider that the abolition has affected a pure and 
unmixed good. 

" And no wonder ! " cried Seaton. " These are gentlemen who 
arc far from being nice or touchy upon the point of honour; 
' mildew ' and commercial morality are not dainty in such 
matters ; an appeal for satisfaction is much more pleasantly 
passed on to a solicitor than settled by a second. They remind 
me of the timid burghers of certain foreign cities, who torment 
every dog with a muzzle for fear one in ten thousand should 
bite. These pekins, these mandarins wish to justify Napoleon's 
sneer about the nation of shopkeepers." 

Which was fairly answered by Pitt's " nation of stage-players," 
I retorted, although, the actor being an artist, would, abroad at 
least, rank himself before the epicier. 

But there is still a moderate opinion upon the subject in 
England which speaks somewhat as follows : 

The duel is one of those provisional arrangements which, like 
cannibalism, slavery, polygamy, and many others, belong to 
certain stages of society, and which drop off as decayed and 
dead matter when, no longer necessary, they become injurious 
excrescences upon the body social. Those who look only at the 
surface of things consider these temporary institutions as unmixed 
evils, forgetting the immense amount of good which they did 
in their own day. 

It may be questioned whether we have not been premature in 
thus striking at the effect before we can reach the cause, in 
throwing away the empirical remedy before we have found the 
scientific cure. The duel has been abolished, but the "court of 
honour" has not become a part of our social system. And there 
are cases surely I need not specify them which defy all courts. 

The Eighth Evening. 115 

Instead of absolutely forbidding duels, the law might allow a 
certain latitude by trying every case upon its own merits or 
demerits. For there are still many who look upon it as 
To us a landmark of the times when Honour ruled the Land. 

"They said that abolishing the prize ring would increase the 
use of the knife," remarked Claude, " but I don't see that it 

Nor I. But that was simply a prize-fighter's argument against 
being abolished. The fact is that he abolished himself by a 
development of ruffianism and rascality which made him 

If, however, novels be a reflection of life, I can only say that 
during the last few years, since duelling became rarer, the 
amount of "thrashing" that your six-foot-six and well-biceps'd 
heroes have to do is more startling than pleasing. 

"'And if they draw the rein tighter," said Seaton, "they'll make 
matters as they arc in Russia, where no duel is allowed. It's only 
lately that an officer smarting under insufferable wrongs, and 
unable to call out his injurer, simply sabred him. And who does 
not remember how the two civilians in high positions settled a 
quarrel without scandal by. tossing up, the loser to blow out his 
own brains." 

"Yes," said Shughtie, "our 'Liberals' and Rads. borrowed a 
system of competitive examinations for their embryo Mandarins 
from China; the next thing will be to settle affairs of honour 
by the 'happy dispatch' of Japan." 

We are getting on fast, I thought. 

"And what claim has England," continued Seaton, "to saj 
that what she does is right and that the rest of the world is 
wrong ? ' ' 

Right and wrong, Seaton ! 

"Oh, bother your metaphysics! Next we shall have ontology 
in the smoking room. Why should England be justified in 
making duel murder, when at most it's manslaughter in France 
and Italy, in Germany and Austria? It's my opinion that the 
new law does no good at h->me. Abolish duelling and you intro- 
duce an extra pacific view of every question, public as well as 
individual'. And the Englishman is naturally too long suffering. 
John Bull fights like a man when his blood is heated, but how 
hard it is becoming to raise the spirit of the British lion up to 
positive fighting point ! He growls, and shows teeth and claws, 
and looks ugly ; but the voice of the charmer whispers cabalistic 
words capital, commerce, cotton, corn, taxes. And behold he 
lies down, grumbling withal, but still 1 he lies down." 

Moral coercion, the public opinion of an enlightened nation, 

"Don't," cried that irritable officer, "unless you wish to 
drive me mad ! " 

" And I'm certain," said Shughtie, " that the working of the 

116 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

law will do us no good abroad. All the world knows how far it 
may go with John Bull before he rouses himself thorough!^, 
dashes his hat to the ground, pulls off his coat, tucks up his 
sleeves, and roars ' Come on ! ' He himself told his fellow 
creatures that he was about to become a very long-suffering man 
when, somewhere about 1850, he proposed a pax vobiscntii in 
creation in general ; he talked of paying off his army, of turning 
his navy into emigrant transports, and 

Shughtie, you exaggerate ! I interposed. 

" Not very much, certainly not the language of the peace-at- 
any-price party, before the nation took the alarm and volunteered 
to arm itself, greatly, I must say, against the grain of those 
who should have lent a hand. I also nearly managed to get 
into hot water by proposing a rifle corps, but that's neither 
here nor there. If you will abuse yourself, justly or unjustly, 
you must expect your friends to adopt the worst view of you. 
You can't object to being judged after your own estimate. All of 
us know how high a hand the French took in half a dozen 
national affairs look at the Recognition of the Empire, the Suez 
Canal, the 'Charles et Georges' business. And why? Do you 
believe they fancied that they could beat us? By no means! 
But they knew that a war is always more or less popular in 
France, rarely in England, now a financial rather than a com- 
mercial nation, except when it ought not to be so, like that 
fatal Crimean blunder." 

"Well, we may say what we like," cried Seaton, "but whilst 
the present state of what the papers call ' unprecedented material 
prosperity ' liasts we must expect to see John Bull below par in 
the political Bourse of the world. For my part I only wonder 
what will be the reaction. For it must come, and it'll be a 
'caution.' And the first great 'shake' will bring it." 

The remark seemed to give general satisfaction. 

"But what," cried Shughtie, "can poor John Bull do without 
an army for regiments he has, army he has none ! " 

Seaton was on his hobby in a moment. " What can he do, 
you ask? Why, one of two things. Reduce his force to half 
and double its prospects I don't mean fi.s.d., but pension the 
old soldier and his family. So we shall get good men, not the 
skulkers who disgraced us in the Crimea by lying down in the 
Redan trenches. Don't I remember the French taunt, ' You, 
Johnny, Redan, no ! no ! Malakhoff, yes ! yes ! ' and the growling 
reply, ' Waterloo, you beggars ! ' The other plan, which of 
course we shall come to, is a general conscription, the Prussian 
fashion modified. I'd begin with reviving the old militia law, 
and make every man serve in the second line between the ages 
of eighteen and twenty-six. At the first war I'd make service in 
the first line compulsory on gentle or simple. Please, some- 
body, stop me, or I shall go far into the small hours." 

I offered him a Manilla. 

The Eighth Evening. 11? 


"And now we can proceed with the judiciary combat," said 

You wish me, in fact, to consider fencing with the point of 
personal utility, which naturally follows the assault, and which 
puts the colophon upon the art of arms? 

" We do." 

I obey. The duel on one side is an assault composed of a 
series of passes and parries between men who are accustomed to 
the exercise of arms, in different degrees, it is true, but still 
proceeding after tolerably regular principles. On the other hand, 
it is a serious encounter with points which threaten one or two 
lives. A single home-thrust only is wanted, no matter how, no 
matter where, rightly or wrongly delivered. Here, do not 
forget it, in addition to stratagem, address, and science, there 
are other and unknown factors surprise, brutal strength, savage 
ferocity, and the furious onslaughts of ignorance. 

The face and those parts of the body whose defence in the 
assault we unjustifiably neglect have blood which your enemy 
may cause to flow. Your adversary is not picked out by 
yourself. The choice of chance, he may be short or tall, strong 
or weak, your inferior, your equal, or your superior in 

It is no longer a play in which pupils seek to display their 
brilliant science, a struggle of address in which you expose 
yourself voluntarily to be touched, perhaps twice or thrice, and 
thus inspire your enemy with a confidence which causes you to 
triumph in the end. We are far from the peaceful trial of 
strength executed under the master's eye, according to the 
rules of art and with arms of courtesy. This struggle differs 
from the assault even more than the latter does from the 

The man who stands before you, who threatens you with his 
weapon, may be a consummate swordsman, fighting perhaps 
for the fifth or sixth time with all the advantages which an 
old campaigner must have accumulated ; or he may never have 
taken a sword in hand, and rely solely upon his energy and 
upon his sang-froid, or even upon good luck, to serve and save 

Are you about to engage an antagonist who calculates his 
movements, and who ably keeps his distance, advancing and 
retiring after the rules of art ? Or perhaps the man opposed 
to you will count only upon a supreme effort of audacity, of 
recklessness; he may defeat all your calculations, and by 
making use of his sword with^the mere animal instinct of self- 
preservation he may trample under foot every received prin- 
ciple of the art. 

118 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

v * 

I need hardly speak of the part which the second ought to 
take before his friend is placed in the field. You will readily 
understand how imperative it is for him to exhaust all means 
of reconciliation, of preventing a hostile meeting, and how 
every chance of an honourable settlement should have been 
tried and found wanting before he consents to attend at the 
supreme arbitration of the sword. 

There are men who have ignored the fact that they are 
guardians at once of another's life as well as of his honour, 
and who, fantastically to preserve the one, have foolishly or 
foully risked the other. But such things hardly belong to our 
times. The professional second, so brave with another man's 
skin, is all but extinct, except in comedies, and I only hope 
that we shall never see him again. 

The chief muscle of a true man's arm is hie firm belief in 
the goodness of his cause. All the power and, I may say, the 
religion of the second lie in the calmness and firmness, in the 
justice, loyalty, and conciliation which he brings to his most 
unpleasant duty. It is a task that will always win for him, 
not praise, but obloquy, and his main consolation will be found 
in the approval of his own conscience. 

Speaking personally, if you allow me, gentlemen, when the 
duel becomes inevitable, after all my efforts to settle a difficulty, 
and when my conviction is that false vanity and dangerous 
amour propre are more concerned in the affair than wounded 
honour, I should not hesitate to express my opinion and to 
withdraw. Duels fought for the gallery are now considered 
either odious or ridiculous ; they have passed out of our 
manners; they belong to the lumber-room of the past. 

I shall differ from many, especially in the " Sister Island," 
upon the following point : In my opinion jealousy or rivalry 
for the affections of a woman is not a subject to fight about. 
If you want to see who is the "better man," ride stirrup by 
stirrup at a 6ft. wall, try the most of twelve tigers on foot, 
or go to the sources of the Congo River, but do not fight for 
the fair hand after the fashion of all the lower animals; such 
action simply degrades a man. You are always bound in 
honour to fight about her, not for her, to take up a woman's 

Said Shughtie : " One of the prettiest things in Afghanistan 
is a chivalrous custom, not taken from Europe. When a woman 
of rank is insulted or injured she sends her veil to the bravest 
chief of her acquaintance. His duty is to fight out her quarrel 
a outrancc." 

* Sections VI. to XI., besides .exposing Burton's own ideas, embody 
most of Bazanoourt's remarks in the Seventh to Ninth Evenings of 
his Secrets of the Sn-onl (Clay's translation, pp. 153-172). 

The Eighth Evening. 119 

But need I say it? the more you avoid fighting, the better 
for her good name. She will feel that more strongly than you 
do, unless she belongs to that odious demi-monde which would 
add to her bad reputation notoriety and, let me term it, infamy, 
by causing blood to be shed about herself. And one of the 
difficulties we Englishmen find on the Continent is to avoid 
being drawn into the complications that are ever arising between 
our fellow-countrywomen and foreigners. The Continental 
considers it a duty when entering life to faire ses epreuvesin 
other and very blunt words, to prove that he is not a coward. 
We English assume every gentleman to be brave and every 
gentlewoman to be honest until the reverse is established. 
Your foreigner in love becomes extra pugnacious, and if he 
can win and wear la belle after a duel, tant mieux, c'est beau! 
I know nothing that offends my sense of delicacy more deeply 
than such affairs as these. My plan is at once to take up my 
hat and to make my last bow. 

On the other hand, any assertion against character or conduct 
which tends to lower a man in hie own esteem or in that of his 
kith and kin, his friends or hie acquaintances, demands an 
apology or the alternative. 

In proportion as the second shows himself yielding and 
conciliatory before the hour of action, so when that hour has 
come he must be decided and inflexible. His part has changed, 
but only to burden him with a new responsibility. 

It is now that the " friend " must foresee everything, calcu- 
late all chances, fear everything, and provide for all contin- 
gencies in order that his partner may enjoy the tranquility of 
mind, and especially the sang-froid, which he will need so 
much. Nothing, in fact, is trivial in the thousand and one 
details which precede a single combat. The most futile in 
appearance may suddenly assume abnormal consequence. 

The stake is far too heavy to be thrown with careless hand 
and thoughtless head upon the green table of chance. In the 
first place the health of the combatant is highly important, 
and all the peculiarities of his eyesight, as well as his wind 
and training, must be carefully noticed. Familiarity with his 
habits may be the means of avoiding a fatal mistake. 

The ground also has its claims to etudy. It should be chosen 
because flat, uniform, and without rises and falls that might 
be dangerous. Observe narrowly the place where your man 
is about to stand, and do not trust him to observe for himself. 
A tree root, imperceptible to a rapid survey, might cause him 
to stumble and receive a thruet from the opponent before the 
latter can stay his hand. All this may appear puerile, but 
experts will know how easily that tuft of dewy and slippery 
grass, that small round pebble, which can cause a man to lose 
his balance and his life. 

The light demands all your sagacity. The best position for 

120 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

the combatant, with sword as well as with pistol, is to stand 
against a dull foreground which does not define and throw 
out his figure. Never let the sun or the glare fall upon his 
face; it makes the blades sparkle, renders the coup d'oeil 
uncertain, and inevitably results in hesitation. 

Remember that we fight with the look as well as with the 
sword. The look is thought ; it warns us of danger, and it 
instinctively points out the adversary's weak side. Further 
etill, the fixity of the glance, the eye which, like the olden 
god's, does not wink, the steadfast survey of the motionless 
pupil, the light of battle as it is called, have a fascination of 
their own. Whilst the steel menaces, the eyes discourse in 
questions and answers, and they convey to the brain informa- 
tion which it could not otherwise receive. 

Never allow the shirt to be removed. The sudden effect of 
the air, especially in the case of one unaccustomed to it, may 
act upon the combatants in very different degrees-, according 
as their constitutions are more or less impressionable. 

" But if one of the two demand it? " 

Refuse for the other. It is the habit of the French caserne, 
and it should not be tolerated beyond the barrack yard. 

" May a glove be used ? " 

It is the custom, but custom is not law. Although many think 
it a right, it cannot claim all the privileges. Usually it is 
settled beforehand, whether fencing gloves may or may not be 
used. As a rule they are, because they grasp the grip with 
greater certainty and render disarming more difficult. Besides, 
the handle of a foil or rapier is hard enough to tire or blister 
the delicate naked hand, and the fingers in contact with it 
suffer from every full-toned parry and from every shock of the 

If, however, one side refuse, the other cannot insist upon 
the glove being accepted, or upon claiming that advantage for 

An objection, for instance, might be started that the glove, 
familiar to the practised fencer, is strange and useless to one 
who has never worn it. This would rarely be done, because the 
man whose palm has never touched a sword would feel its 
roughness more than, his experienced adversary. At all events, 
whether the opponent choose or refuse, you may use a kid 
glove, well chalked to prevent slipping, or wind a kerchief 
about your fingers, always, however, being careful not to let 
an end hang floating so as to embarrass the action of the 
enemy's blade. 


"May the left haul be allowed to parry?" asked one of my 
I reply, in the French school, positively, No ! 

The Eighth Evening. 121 

''But if both combatants content?" 

It is a consent which ought never to be asked nor to be 
granted. I arn aware that many professors are of a different 
opinion, and that the Comte de Chateauvillard, an authority 
upon the subject, has declared " Que le fait de parer avec la 
main peut etre 1'objet d'un accord reciproque." Yet that 
changes in nothing my opinion. I say clearly and once for all, 
" Since you have evidently the right of accepting or of refusing, 
invariably refuse." 

"But why?" 

In the first place, it dees not belong to the school ; it is row, 
if it has not been, foreign to its habits, to its manners, ar.d to 
its practice. 

It might, moreover, be dangerously untair to one sido, who, 
like an enormous majority, had never heard of such a thing, 
whereas the other might have made it his careful study, with 
the ultimate view of using it in the field. 

In the Italian school, as I have already explained to you, 
that form of parrying, or rather of putting aside, the enemy's 
pass had its raison d'etre; in all others it becomes an imperfect 
and dangerous parody. 

The French system throws back the left arm in order to 
profile the body and offer less surface to the enemy./ It cannot 
use the left hand without compromising this (position at least 
without subverting its principles. 

Furthermore, I have visited most of the famous salles of the 
world, and no modern professor at least, after La Boissiere 
(1818) ever advocated parrying with the hand. In the number- 
less assaults witnessed by me no scholar ever attempted it, nor 
proposed it to his antagonist. Never, at least, that I am aware 
of, has maitre d'armes taught it to his pupils, even as an excep- 
tion which might present itself, and against which it is wise to 
be forewarned. 

Why, then, when the assault oeaaes to be sport, and when life 
is in question, should you offer or accept a convention which 
thus transgresses all received custom ? 

Years ago I was fencing at the rooms of my friend MacLaren 
at Oxford, and by way of surprise introduced this Italian style 
of parry. There was a peculiar expression upon the counten- 
ance of my adversary, and I asked him what he thought of it. 

" To speak the truth," was the reply, " I see no reason, when 
you use your left hand in that way, why I should not come 
down upon your head with the pommel of my sword ! " 

And he was perfectly justified by the traditions of the old 
Peninsular masters. 

I have quoted the dansi co pomi of the great swordsman 
Tasso. Rosaroll and Grisctti (1803, part 2, chap. 3) gives ruies 
for the colpo di porno in double short measure, and a blow on 
the temple would easily kill. 


122 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

" You forget," quoth Seaton, " that the old term ' pommel- 
ling one's enemy ' arose from this use of the heavy knobs on the 
antique sword guards." 

If we admit this peculiarity of the Italian school, we can 
hardly object to the others, such aa the parries of contention, 
the volta and the circolata (vaulting), the inquarto (spring aside), 
the sbasso (slipping down), and the sparita di vita, or effacement 
du corps, the incocciatura (hilt clashing), the imbroccata (dagger 
thrust), and the balestrata (tripping-up), which guard by the 
movements of the muscle, not by the sword. 

Such a concession might also, without any counterbalancing 
advantages, lead to mortal errors and to fatal consequences. 

Allow me to explain. Between the open hand which sweeps 
away the thrust and that nervous contraction of the fingers 
which involuntarily closes upon the blade, the difference is 
hard to define. The latter may be done almost without inten- 
tion, and, if the result be a thrust mortal to the adversary, it 
will be followed by life-long regrets, by vain repentance. The 
very possibility of such an accident taking place, even once 
in ten thousand times, should make us guard against accepting 
any convention that might lead to the fatality. 

It is as bad for the seconds as for the principals. It is 
difficult, not to say impossible, even where the practised eye is 
concerned, to appreciate in the rapid rencontre of rapiers, in 
the lightning-like exchange of passes, parries, and riposts, when 
the blades, sparkling in the sun, intertwine as though they were 
things of life, the difference of two movements, one being the 
result of agreement and the other a chance which suddenl}" 
changes the duel into manslaughter. The question is so thorny 
per se that with the best will it can hardly be so grasped as 
not to produce two widely different interpretations and of the 
latter which of the two is right? The fact ujpon which both 
repose has passed away, rapid as a look, fugitive as thought 
itself. Terrible position in the presence of a fellow creature 
stretched upon the ground, cold and inanimate, who might still 
be in the vigour of youth and life'! Who would ; ci-rpi a 
responsibility so heavy as this is? 


I am exhausting your patience in describing the many duties 
of the second upon the field, and the minute appreciation of 
details which should ever be present in his thoughts. Yet, 
without going deep into the matter, it would bo useless to 
attempt handling it. 

Here is another point which demands extreme attention. 

When the swords" have crossed, the seconds, armed with foils 
or canes, should stand within reach of the combatants, ready 
to interfere in case of any irregularity. One of the two may, 
perchance, slip, stumble, take a false step, be disarmed, or be 

The Eighth Evening. 123 

wounded. The latter accident is especially worthy of their 
vigilance, because two phases, both equally fatal, may present 

One of the principals receives the thrust. The victor, in the 
heat of action and excited by the natural animation of battle, 
is often, unconscious that he has disabled hia opponent. Before 
he sees tho effect upon the latter, or even before he can stop 
his own impetuous career, he may strike him a second time 
unless the seconds beat down the swords. 

The wounded man, on the other hand, may not immediately 
feel the effects of his hurt, ancl may risk, by continuing the 
encounte^ one still worse. It might also happen and this 
perhaps is most to be feared that, blinded by rage, he throws 
himself madly upon his adversary. 

Again, the combatant who feels his sword bury itself in the 
opponent's aide stopa instinctively, and hesitates to take 
advantage of a wounded man, although the latter may be con- 
tinuing the attack. During this critical interval his anta- 
gonist, rushing in with senseless fury, may either run him 
through the body, or, if he has calmly returned to guard, 
become the victim of his own impetuosity. 

After the first wound the encounter should end, or at least 
be suspended. And the seconds will justly incur blame if, by 
want of vigilance, they have neglected to stop useless effusion 
of blood. 

It is evident that sometimes, despite all our attention, the 
attack is so rapid and headlong that it cannot be arrested in 
time. But then we shall feel no relf-reproach. 

However rare, and happily so, are such contingencies, still 
they may occur. Thus it is of the highest importance for the 
seconds to follow with vigilant eye the conduct of the swords, 
and even to forecast their movements in case one of the com- 
batants be hurt, however slightly. 

If after inspection the wound prove of little consequence, and 
it be resolved to continue the combat, the two adversaries will 
at any rate have found time to recover their calmness and their 

This necessity of minute attention is one of the gravest 
points; it is also an absolute sine qua non. And here it is that 
the role of the second finds its highest difficulties, for here his 
responsibility is complete. 

" It appears to me," said Charles, " without knowing any- 
thing of the matter, that the best second in the field would be 
an old fencing master." 

If you can make it worth his while, I replied. The usual 
practice of the day, especially when serious consequences are 
anticipated, is to hire a couple of soldiers, privates in the line, 
at the cost of their discharge and their trouble. And every 
vear it becomes a more serious thing to ask the assistance of a 

124 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

" friend " who has anything to expect from society. The late 
Roumanian pistol duel between Prince Siretzo and M. Ghika 
ended with the imprisonment of the seconds for two and three 
years, when others escape with a few francs fine and a nominal 
imprisonment. If this new view prevail the duello in France 
will go the way of the bowie knife and black room in the 
United States. 


" I'd like to hear," said Seaton, " what you think ought to 
be done in the case of corps d corps, when the principals meet 
body to body." 

It is a most delicate' point, which should always be pre- 
viously arranged between the seconds. You cannot stop the 
fight except by agreement, and if you do not it generally ends 
with mortal wounds on both sides, which are called en partie 

Here prudence, resolve, and perfect fairness are required. 

If, for instance, one of the combatants has thrown himself 
violently uipon the other, the blades should not be struck down 
before the side which has endured the attack shall also have 
used his right of ripost. 

But there are questions ar.d casualties of perpetual recurrence 
which can be resolved only by the presence of mind and by the 
just appreciation of the second. 

In former days the case was otherwise. Now it is not too 
much to expect that the second will disdain to consult the 
interests of his principal by turning a convention, loyally 
offered and loyally accepted, into something favourable to his 
friend and unfair to the other side. Such would be, for 
instance, suddenly arresting the rencontre when a case speci- 
fically expressed threatens to occur but does not occur. 

"But if it happen?" 

Then each man consults his judgment and his conscience upon 
what his conduct should be. Some might peremptorily demand 
that the rencontre cease ; others that the combatants return to 
their places. 

" And now let me ask you another question," said Shughtie. 
' I've often heard a man say ' If in a duel about a small matter 
a dead thrust were made at my principal's chest, rny impulse 
would be to stop it.' Is he right or is. he wrong? " 

Evidently wrong. His motive is amiable, his action more 
natural than reasonable, but he has assumed the most crushing 
responsibility. Let us follow it out to its possible consequences ; 
what is called Transatlantically "going th3 whole hog" is no 
bad test of principle, however opposed to our distaste for 
extremes. The mortal thrust has been stopped by the second, 
not parried by the principal. The fight continues and your 
"friend's" adversary is killed by the sudden change of that 

The Eighth Evening. 125 

chance which at first stood in his favour. What now says your 
conscience ? 

The duel is a sad resource, but after you have honestly and 
honourably done all in your power to prevent it, allow fortune 
to pronounce between the principals. You may take any means 
in your power to diminish the fatality of the combat, but above 
all things fair play. 

Shughtie persisted. " There are many who think that a point 
or two should be stretched in favour of a friend." 

I am afraid there are. But this is the emotional and feminine 
view of a man's duty. Once "stretch the point" and telB me if 
you can where it will end? 

" It's clear to me," remarked Claude, " that nothing would 
persuade me to be a second with all these responsibilities." 

Many say the same. The part is, in fact, one of the most 
serious that a man can assume ; to take it up lightly is blameable 
in the highest degree. I do not en\y the second who sleeps 
soundly and without sombre reflections throughout the night 
before the affair. His consolation must be the firm resolve never 
to transgress the strictest limit of absolute right for his friend 
a? well as for the other party. 

You will now see how many gifts are required for a second 
in a duel of swords. The first is that tenacity of look and cer- 
tainty of coup d'ocil which result only from a long habit of arms. 
The last is that energy of character which predisposes him to take 
an active part; the purely passive conception robs it of all its 
force, all its nobleness, all its dignity. 


What do you say to the disputed question, " If one of 
the combatants wants to rest, can he be forced to go on? " asked 

That again should always be settled either by previous arrange- 
ment or by mutual agreement. Otherwise unpleasant discussions 
may arise. You have the right to compel him, but how enforce 

" Surely it would be repugnant to one's feelings not to give 
breathing time to a man who's sinking with fatigue, whose 
hand can't hold the sword and whose breath is gone?" said 

Yet the right of insisting upon continuing the encounter is 
there, and for this reason. Why is he more exhausted than his 
adversary? Possibly, and I should say probably, because he has 
begun the fight with effort, with violence ; he has used an 
imprudent activity without reserve and without consulting his 
strength. The other side has had to support these incessant 
shocks and attacks ; it has better estimated its means and 
resources, and it has relied upon the result, despite the many 
risks incurred. The moment of success is evidently when the 

G 2 

126 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

attacker, tired out by the number and impotence of his attacks, 
is able to offer the least resistance. 

And what do you propose? That lie should rest himself, 
recover breath, regain vigour, return to all his energy, and 
possibly renew his violent onslaught. Where is the reward of 
your prudence and husbanding strength if the danger which you 
have avoided the first time should be forced upon you the second? 

" Still," Claude persisted, "one could hardly strike a man with 
a sword who can hardly hold his own." 

Such is the feeling of every gentleman. Yet in the French 
barriere style of pistol duel a combatant, after receiving the 
adversary's fire, will not be ashamed of advancing and of dis- 
charging his own weapon. Here the opponent is even more 
unprotected; nothing can restore to the pistol the ball which it 
has discharged. In a rapier duel, on the other hand, however 
worn out a swordsman may seem, a supreme exertion of the will 
may rally his scattered forces, and enable him, dangerous still, 
to deal a death blow. 

But custom is often stronger than truth. With the innate 
sentiments of chivalry, the essence of the pundonor, you will 
feel' a repugnance, an incapacity for taking an advantage to-day, 
when to-morrow under identical circumstances you will claim all 
ycur rights. 

"The difference appears to me," said Shughtie, "that with the 
pistol you may miss; with the sword you can't. There's some- 
thing cold-blooded in wounding a man with a mortal weapon, 
whereas a pugilist has no scruple in giving the knock-down blow 
that ends the fight." 

I pursued. My memory recalls another argument of a classical 
friend who quoted these verses of the ^Eneid : 

Ille pedum melior motu fretusque juvcntu; 

Hie membris et mole vakns; sed tarda trementi 

Genua labant, vastos quatit seger anhelitus artus. 


So it is with arms in the hands. Two men meet upon the 
field. This has all in his favour but one thing; he has height, 
length of arm, rapid execution, science of arms. That has only 
great muscular vigour, and the advantage of wind. The combat 
is unequal, and the tactic of the fencer must be that of the 

Here there are two wrestlers ; one has every advantage of size, 
strength, and weight ; the other has in his favour youth, supple- 
ness, and agility. The latter evidently knows but one tactic, 
that of wearing out a superiority from which he has been com- 
pelled to run many a risk. Would it be fair in the first to 
require a suspension of the struggle, and thus drprivo his oppo- 
nent of an only chance? 

Is it reasonable that one should be invited to sacrifice a part 
of hie chances when the other would add to his own gain the 

The Eighth Evening. 127 

loss of his adversary? The former, by calling for a halt, a 
truce, demands that the latter should give up the good resulting 
from his strength, "stay," and wind. But he himself at the 
same time has not renounced the benefits of his height, hie 
skill, and his other gifts, and he will be careful not to renounce 
them when the combat shall be renewed. 

We might pursue this subject far. The strength whose 
advantages you expect the combatant to sacrifice may be the 
result of short and heavy limbs, which, depriving him of 
elasticity and rapidity of movement, add greatly to his difficulty 
and his danger. The long-windedness of which you would 
disarm him, to the profit of his enemy, may be owing to the 
development of his lungs and breadth of chest, which presents 
the greater siurface to the enemy's sword. 

I have now shown what are the rights of the question 
according to justice and fair play. 

"Fair play," interrupted Shughtie, "is one of the two new 
ideas in morality which have sprung from the British brain. 
What the other is you will all guess. When we pass away we 
ehall leave this legacy to the world." 

The exceptions can depend only upon individual considera- 
tions, such as constitutional feebleness, sickness, a disposition 
to faint, and so forth. All are cases which should previously 
have been foreseen and provided for. 

I have treated this point at full length. Of capital import- 
ance, it is subject to very different appreciations. In conclusion, 
allow me to say that such questions must, as a matter of 
delicacy, always be debated between the seconds, and never 
reach the principals. In this case one of the latter might seem 
to crave a favour which the other has a right to refuse. 


" A last word," eaid Charles. " Can a man be compelled, 
as one reads of in books, to fight two or more duels in 
succession? " 

In these days certainly not. Formerly all the officers of a 
regiment would call out a man who was supposed to have 
insulted the corps. I knew an Englishman who almost in hie 
boyhood shot three adversaries in one morning; and there have 
been horrible instances of combined assa'Ssination even in our 
day. But now we should look upon such an accumulation of 
cartels as murder pure and simple. 

Once the duel finished the combatant should be inviolable 
to all, and in no case can he be compelled to cross swords a 
six-ond time. Remember that I am not speaking of the pistol 
duel. Fatigued as he is, or as ho may be, by the first 
encounter, the chances of a second would not be equally 
distributed between him and hie adversary. 

G 3 

128 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

If another rencontre be inevitable, and be honourably settled 
upon by both sides, it can take place only after many hours 
of rest, or, better still, on the morrow. At the same time, 
should the " party interested " that is to say, the man who 
has fought demand an immediate settlement of the question, 
there is no moral reason for not conceding it. I should never 
allow my " friend " to accept it, save under very exceptional 
circumstances, such as the absolute necessity of a journey, for 
if successful he would certainly be misjudged by the world. 

But there is one precaution which is absolutely necessary. 
Under no circumstances whatever should the man who is about 
to become an adversary be .allowed to be present, either as 
spectator or as second, at the combat which precedes, his own. 
The primary law, equality of chances, would be thereby 
utterly violated. The simple act of looking on has given him 
a real, an incontestable advantage. With eyes sharpened by 
necessity he has watched his enemy, at a time, too, when most 
probably the latter was the least capable of concealing his play. 
" Explain ! " was the word. 

In a rapier duel there are two important points to be 
learned. The first is the adversary's style and knowledge of 
the sword ; the second is the nature of his moral organisation 
upon the field. It is evident without argument how much you 
gain by knowing whether the man before you is impetuous and 
fiery or calm and cold ; if he will stand upon the defensive or 
resolutely proceed to the attack; whether his plan is to parry 
the pass, to retire, or to extend the sword in fine, if he is 
energetic or "dawdling," skilful or unskilled, "difficult" and 
dangerous or tame and phlegmatic. 

By the mere act of being present at a first rencontre you 
know all that as though you had fenced with your adversary 
a dozen times. Your confidence increases with your knowledge, 
your energy redoubles ; your presence of mind, untrammelled 
by doubt, preoccupation, or the necessity of study, belongs to 
you in its entirety. You have read the book, you have surveyed 
the country. 

Though you be completely ignorant of arms, and even 
though a study of the sword, more or less superficial, may not 
enable you amply to take advantage of the occasion, a* a 
practised student would do ; still, the simple fact of having 
witnessed the rencontre is enough to lay the terrible phantom 
which we call the Unknown, to point out to your intelligence 
the line which it should follow, and to show you the certain 
way to success. 

Your adversary, on the other hand, ignores all this. He is 
uncertain whether you are .practised or unpractised ; whether 
ho should attack you or await your attack ; if your nature is 
receptive and impressionable or stolid and aggressive, cool or 
ttable to be carried away. He walks like one blindfolded; 

The Ninth and Last Evening. 129 

you are the book with uncut leaves, the unexplored region. 
It remains for him to divine everything, to learn everything. 

And as but lately I claimed for the man who, in default of 
study or acquired science, enjoys such advantages as well- 
developed lungs and abnormal resources of muscle the plenary 
right of using his superiority as the adversary had not failed 
to do, so in the situation which we now consider I unhesitatingly 
reject anything that may destroy the equality of chances and 
may make the scale incline to one side or to the other. 

Under these circumstances, were I a second, my first step 
would be an absolute refusal to be present at a rencontre so 
irregular and so unequal. 


IN consideration of the occasion the melancholy occasion we 
were promised a visit in the smoking-room, but not so early as 
usual as sundry Philisterines (feminine of the Philistines), who ' 
had been dining at the castle, might not order their carriages till 

I am trying to remember, but I cannot, that the gathering 
in the Fumatory was at all remarkable for gloom or sadness. 
The seance began with the usual light talk about current topics, 
and when every cigar and pipe was under a full head of smoke, 
the subject of th3 final discourse was asked. 

This evening I propose to speak of the combatants them- 
selves and the means of attack and defence which offer them 
the most favourable chances. We will avoid anything verging 
upon the triste or the terrible, and do our roaring very gently. 
Indeed, the occasion is already sad enough to 

My sentimental attempt why will the hearer always mistake 
them? was nipped in the bud by a general movement of hilarity. 
Youth is so unpleasantly sanguine ; the time before it is so 
interminable, and the years roll on so slbwly. It is only after 
ahem ! that man begins to find the stream gain swiftness, break 
into a torrent, and rush madly past its banks towards the 
sea the eternal sea. It is only then that he realises and 
quotes : 

Eheu fugaces Posthume! Posthumel 
Labuntur a,nni. 

It is only then that he begins to review the past, to think of 
what might have been, of all that he might have done, to recall 
to mind, to quote : 

And of the learned who with all his lore 
Has leisure lo be wise! 

Perhaps, oh, poet ! the truest wisdom for prosaic personal use, at 
lr;;sf, if not poetical purposes, is never to look back upon the> 

130 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

past, to ransack the -present for every possible enjoyment, and 
even at eighty to anticipate the future, to begin building a 
house or a family or a fortune at the age of seventy or eighty 
with mental eyes fixed upon the long and brilliant perspective 
which spreads itself before them. 

I have a young friend of eighty-four who hopes that someone will 
shoot him when he grows old. I was once dining at the house 
of another jeune homme of seventy, a statesman, a litterateur, 
and a man of the world, who had lived, as the saying is, evcrv 
moment of his life. His sleep was so sound that no one ventured 
to ask him in the morning how he had passed the night, and 
his appetite, even at breakfast, was always of the healthiest. 

But at that especial dinner I could not help remarking to my 
neighbour that the host, was *' hungry as a hunter," and in higher 
than his usual high spirits. 

"Don't you know why?" whispered Meph. "I do; he has 
just received a letter announcing to him the death of one of his 
oldest and best friends." 

The anecdote is not amiabl'e like Fontenelle's "point de sauce 
blanche " and I hardly know why it has fallen from my lips. Yet 
it is true, true to the letter ; my belief is that it portrays a 
really wise man. And did not the correct Archbishop of Cambrai, 
if we may trust his own madrigall, which, by the by, was 
suppressed par les nonnettes, record a similar sentiment? 
Jeune. j'etais trop sage 
Et voulais trop scavoir. 
Je ne veux a mon age 
Que badinage 

Et toucher a mon dernier age 
Sans rien prevoir. 

Fenelon also had evidently found leisure to be wise. 

A long silence followed. I was preparing some final remarks. 


"What! positively in a brown study?" said that vexatious 
Shughtie. "One would almost suspect that the sweet youth's 
in love ! " 

Another burst of juvenile enjoyment, which had one good 
effect, that of rendering all further sentiment impossible. So I 
resumed in my soberest and most businesslike tones. 

Yesterday we settled the vexed question of what a second 
is expected to do and not to do. I attempted to point out, as 
lucidly and as completely as possible, the qualities required in 
your " friends," their multifarious duties and precautions, the 
preliminary studies demanded of them, and the anxious circum- 
spection which must preoccupy their minds at all times and 
upon every point. For the world will charge upon their 
shoulders the greatest part of the responsibility, and the world 

The Ninth and Last Evening. 131 

is right. Half the duels in the olden time arose from putting 
one's " affair " in the hands of Sir Lucius O'Trigger. 

The preliminaries are all ended. Each combatant has received 
a blade of equal length. 

" I have heard," said Lord S., "that on the Continent some- 
times allowance is made for natural) length of arm. Is it the 

An energetic second will occasionally try to secure that advan- 
tage for his principal, but it should never be admitted. The 
long arm is certainly in the fencer's favour, but it may be com- 
paratively weak, or accompanied by feeble loins and legs, and 
surely one cannot think of handicapping on such occasions. 
Moreover, the longer the foil the greater practice is required to 
use it properly. 

Boith are now placed fronting each other. One of the friends 
stands between them ; he turns alternately towards both principals 
and asks them: 

''Gentlemen, are you ready to stand on guard?" 

And upon receiving the affirmative reply he moves from 
between them, giving !the word to begin. 

Now the combat opens ; .both men, attentive and still motion- 
less, feel that their lives are protected by the points of their 
swords nothing else. 


Under these circumstances only three hypotheses are possible. 
I wil ! l briefly examine them all. 

The first is that in which a man who has never handled a foil 
or a rapier, or who has that dangerous thing a Idt'tle knowledge, 
stands in presence of an adversary who is familiar with his 
weapon; this is perhaps the most usual case. The 
second is that in which both the combatants are equally 
" profane " in the Art of Arms; and the third is when both have 
a modicum of skill or are equal in swordsmanship. With 
respect to the last phase, I will somewhat extend what was said 
before about the levelling properties of the buttonless foil or 
rapier. In the field the degree of superiority as regards science, 
for which one of the combatants may be noted in the salle 
d'armes, often disappears, and is much more than compensated 
for by the difference of organisation. Here, and I cannot 
repeat it too often, the object is not to touch often and brilliantly ; 
the one thing needful is to touch once in any way you can. 

We are no longer in the age when every gentleman who wore 
a sword was supposed to have learned its use, and was expected 
to draw it whenever opportunity offered. The beaux and the 
dandies of the Georgian era, like the raffines on the other side 
of the Channel, considered it a mark of high breeding not to 
disable the antagonist, except by a brilliant, scientifically com- 
bined pass. There is much to be said in favour of the practice; 

132 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

it was more graceful!, more gentlemanly, more chivalrous, and 
it showed the old knightly quality of being perfectly familiar 
with the use of weapons. But, however that might be. the 
man who used his sword like a spit, even though he succeeded 
in passing it through his adversary's body, would have made 
himself the laughing stock of men and an object of contempt to 

We have changed all that ; the conditions of the age no longer 
admit it. Ours has become a workaday world, and England is 
fast teaching the rest of mankind to quote her peculiarly 
national and characteristic proverb, "Time is money." We 
attempted to introduce the Turkish bath, which, connected with 
ceremoniall ablutions, in Turkey occupies the best part of four 
hours. What was the result? The City man drove off to 
Jermyn-street or elsewhere, undressed, sat five minutes in 
the tepidarium, rushed into the calidarium, oscillated between 
the two for a quarter of an hour, lay fidgeting for another 
fifteen minutes in the / rigid arium, hardly waited till the first 
perspiration had passed off, rubbed himself down, re-dressed, and 
drove back whence he came, in nervous anxiety lest he should 
bo too late for a business letter or a party of pleasure. After this 
can you wonder that he execrated the Turkish bath, and that 
his friends sometimes attributed to it his apoplexy, his epilepsy, 
or his paralysis? 

And so it is with fencing. In these days young men have no 
time for it. Henoe the art is neglected, and it is very rare 
that both combatants know how to make the best use of the 
arm which they hold in their hands. 

I now proceed to consider my first hypothesis. 


In France the man who knows nothing of the sword, whether 
he has never touched a foil, or he has, at rare intervals, 
beaten the air in the rooms of some young friend, when suddenly 
forced to fight goes, straightway to a professor with the object 
of obtaining some notion which can enable him to defend his life. 
The laws of society permit him to haunt the salle d'armes; he 
may spend every moment of the interval in study, and, if the 
duel be with pistols, he may frequent the tir and get useful hints 
from the experts, who in France especially teach the art of 
shooting. In England we do not exactly consider such practice 
fair play. 

You will here allow me a few words of digression. When 
a really good fencer is somewhat rusty of hand, after, we will 
say, from eix months to a year of non-practice, I should advise 
him to do nothing of the kind. It generally happens that the 
first time he touches a foil his movements, though by no means 
so correct, become much more " difficult " and dangerous. The 
irregularities that manifest themselves and the rude vigour 

The Ninth and Lost Evening. 133 

that breaks out more than compensate for the absence of olose- 
MfcH in pas and parry. Upon the same principle a man often 
shoots notably his best -at the very opening of the season, on 
St. Partridge his day. 

To return to my young man. He walks straight into the 
salle, and he says to Mr Professor, "' I want you to teach me 
something of fencing. I'm to fight to-morrow." 

" Do you know anything about the sword ? " 

" Half nothing, I may say." 

" Art any rate, you know that you must hold it by the handle 
and try to touch the enemy with the point that's about all, 
isn't it? " rejoins Mr Professor, with a queer kind of smile. 
He then takes down two buttoned foils, hands one to hie 
visitor, and begins the lesson. 

"-"Aw you imagine, this rapid course of instruction lacks 
variety ; indeed, it cannot be, it should not be, otherwise. 
The whole point of the instruction now consists in its simplicity, 
in its being intelligible and practical. For the man who knows 
nothing the most indispensable conditions are calmness and 
sang-froid. These qualities acquire a greater value, because 
they will often be opposed in one combatant to excitement and 
temerity in the other. 

What the professor must regard above and before all things 
is the natural position, the attitude, of his pupil. It should 
be determined in a great measure by the person most con- 
cerned ; it may not be modified, except for the indispensable 
necessity of action, such as a certain regard to balance and to 
facility of using the muscles. The main object is to give the 
improvised swordsman confidence in himself and to turn his 
faults and imperfections to the greatest possible advantage 
rather than attempt to correct them. 

I attach the utmost importance to not putting the pupil 
"out of conceit with himself," as children say, but, on the 
contrary, to increasing his self-reliance by word or deed. A 
little humouring will make him feel at home, and the effect 
will be a certain freedom of thought, of behaviour, and of 
action. The errors and irregularities which may lead to the 
greatest dangers should simply be pointed out, and the result 
must be left to himself. 

The neophyte is sure not to sit straight upon his haunches ; 
he will bend one way or the other, and happy for him if the 
inclination be to the front. He can then be taught in a few 
minutes to let the upper works that is to say, the bust 
impend over the lower. This, combined with the hand and 
the hilt, arm and shoulder, will serve as vanguard and shield 
to that part of tlie body where every thrust is almost always 

You have been told that there is a something instinctive even 
in our modern and civilised style of fencing. This is so true 

134 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

that if all of you, even those who have never touched a foil, 
were to arm yourselves from that bundle in the corner and 
were to stand on guard, not in sport, but in real and terrible 
earnest, supposing that Indian mutineers were thundering at 
the door, your positions would greatly resemble one another, 
with only the light varieties resulting from differences of- 

" I've never touched a sword ! " cried Mr X, taking up a 
foil, "and I'd like to see the result." 

At that moment entered the Marchioness and her daughters, 
and after a general and comprehensive survey of the room took 
their accustomed seats. 

" I hear that you are all fighting duels, gentlemen, under the 
peaceful tuition of Capt. Burton." 

As usual, they malign me, Lady B . 

"Then what ie Mr X doing? Where is his enemy? Who 
is the other desperado ? " 

Poor Mr X eat down, foil in hand. I relieved him of his 
weapon and turned to Lady Mary. Pray hear my prayer ! 
lit is only a little discussion concerning falling on guard. You 
are going to take lessons. Do let this be the first. I will place 
myself as if about to attack you, and you will oppose me as 
you think fit. The charming blonde, grande et gracieuse dans 
ses moindres mouvements, like La BelLe Hamilton, stood up at 
once, slightly flushing, and smiling kindly assent. I presented 
the weapon, which she took with that kind of hand which at 
once attracts eye and heart, when the stunted, etiolated 
extremities of the Hindu or Hindi Venus cause a cold shudder. 
Let us have full-sized hands of perfect shape, according to the 
Greek arid Roman canon, not the dwarfed beauties of the 
Norman-Scandinavian model type. And how set free poor 
Fancy from those eyes of liquid blue, the turquoise of Sevres 
porcelain, with the soft lights of youth and life and happiness- 
shining within them ? Again, wihat a contrast with the big, 
owlish orbe of the nearer Asiatic, the Turkish, Egyptian, and 
Syrian girl, which are large enough and black enough and 
dull enough for a "book of beauty"! And that wealth of 
golden hair which the good term flavescent and beurre frais, 
and the evil disposed "barley sugar"! We wanderers of the 
outer East adore every variety, from simple blond and blond- 
cendre to the fulvastre, coloured like the lion's mane ; from the 
Uond-f'idvide, approaching the true rufous, and the Maryland, 
paJeet of browns, .best worn rough and dishevelled, like the 
article which names it ; to the rulide, which Pvaphael delighted 
to honour, and shall I own it? to the fiercest pelo rosso, 
which the wicked brand as "carroty." Compare that glorious 
tint that glitters as if borrowed from the morning sunbeam, 
which seems to shed light upon the features like a halo, an 
aureole, and which would only look dull if gold powdered, 

The Ninth and Last Evening. 135 

with the blue-black criniere of Southern Europe, the raven's 
wing of which men rave and write I think of the difference 
between the loveliest spring day and wintry night. 

But the time of trial was come. I mastered my emotion with 
a mighty effort, and before the fair girl had time to prepaxe 
herself I etood straight before her, threatening with my point 
that loveliest of lovely bosoms. Instinctively the tender, 
graceful lines, wavy as those of the palmlet, lost much of 
their abandon ; the stature grew to its full height, and a young 
Penthesilea stood before the delighted room. The guard was 

Oil, remain so for a minute ! The position might be photo- 
graphed ! Such, ladies and gentlemen, I resumed in my driest 
tone, is the living proof which will convince the most sceptical. 
Can you not see in that attitude of defiance the pointe de depart 
of the complete swordsman? And eo it must be, because it 
results from tlhe nature of our organisation, and of our 
offeoisive and defensive instincts. 

" I hardly think that I can stand long so," said the adorable 
patient, who had remained scrupulously still. Oh that Titian 
could have seen her with that complexion, 

Making her white robe dull and wan, 

that colour heightened by exertion and by the novelty of the 
exercise ! 

Only one second more, I begged. You will tire yourself if 
the right arm is sitreitched too much. Shorten it a very little 
and hold the sword very lightly with the thumb and two first 
fingers, feeling the hilt somewhat more firmly with the rest ; 
the right shoulder a trifle lower, and, above all things, no 
unnecessary force, no rigidity of muscles in the shoulder. 

" That is far more comfortable ; it hardly tires me at all ! " 

You will find it still easier if you will not allow the waist 
to droop, the bust to bend carelessly a little forwards, the 
left foot to draw somewhat nearer the right, and the knees 
slightly to bend, ready for a rapid movement forwards or 

" Now I feel the stiffness much less ! " 

Admirable ! Only keep the right shoulder somewhat more 
effaced without effort or inconvenience. Place the left hand 
upon the waist, propped by the thumb and fingers. Now you 
are all perfection. If I move towards you, resolutely extend 
the foil, pointing at my face, taking at the same time one 
step to the rear. So ! Admirable again ! And yet you have 
not yet begun, your lessons! I can hardly believe it; you 
seem to have practised for months. Capit. Seaton is to be 
envied his most promising pupil. I shall alwaysi claim for 
myself the high honour of having first put the foil into your 

" Is the demonstration over ? " 

136 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

Yc> ; and a thousand thanks! If another is wanted 1 can 
hardly venture to ask again. But 

"I also have something to ask you, so we may be upon 
terms of equal concession," was the reply, accompanied by a 
too enchanting smile. 

And the beautiful experiment sat down after showing us a 
tableau vivant a vision of grace, a personification of girlish 
loveliness which no man in that room will ever forget if he 
lives to the age of Mr Parr, sen. 

It was no mere compliment to say that one would have 
supposed her not to have been a beginner. Here eex told. 
Women are so much less awkward than men, and their finer 
sense of the fitness of things, combined with superior powers 
of intuition, takes away so much of its gaucherie from the first 
steps in physical exercise. See the difference between boy and 
girl entering upon their first positions in the dancing-room. 

And in the use of weapons women, although deficient in 
bodily force, which to a certain extent is the root of all 
excellence, far surpass us as .a rule in strength of nervee, 
simply because their mode of life is not so trying to the system. 
I lately gave but a simple lesson with pistolcts de salon to a 
fair friend at Florence. She had never touched the weapon 
before that mornin.g, and in her next trial she made several 

This same nervous strength and quiet life explain why so 
many of the sex, especially the blondes, in whom oxygen 
predominates- over carbon, return home from India " fat, fair, 
and forty," when their husbands and brothers wear the light 
mahogany and maple tints which characterised the old 
" Nabob." 


What, then, is the sole lesson, the only salutary advice, which, 
according to me, a fencing master can give to the man who 
says, "In two hours or to-morrow, as the case may be, we 

A short digression, before I reply to myself. The maitre d'rinnr.< 
can hardly be expected to be outside and beyond the general 
run of his profession, but an exceptional man, who is somewhat 
a physiognomist and excuse the dreadful word! an anthro- 
pologist it has nothing to do with anthropophagy may dive 
into the secrets of his client's organisation with results which 
enable him wonderfully to condense instruction; such a compen- 
dium, a multum in yarvo, will take the place of a, dozen lessons 
gi\en by an average, or what American citizens better call an 
' or'nary," man. 

I once went through a course of lectures in phrenology, my 
deceased friend Dn D. being the instructor, an able follower of 
Gall, Spurzheim, and Co. 

The Ninth and Last Evening. 137 

" Excuse me if I interrupt you," said Shughtie. " I was never 
satisfied with that full-fledged invention of the German Geist, and 
lately, turning over old bouquins, I hit upon the Margarita 
Philosophica, Fribourg, 1503 ; it contained a skull marked and 
mapped much as those were by Mr de Veal who called himself 
Mr de Weel. A curious question whether it was known to Gall ! " 

Possibly, but to continue. My friend's sharp Celtic wits, he 
was born a Galway " buckeen," had been prodigiously sharpened 
by the res angusta, and by a fine young family with fine young 
appetites. He was a perfect study in his professional studio, 
garnished with the usual lines of banal plaster busts, Michael 
Angclo and Mr Rush, Mr William Palmer and the Vertical 
Section of the Brain, Rev. Thos. Binney and Mr Greenacre, 
Mrs Manning and the Idiot Girl! of Cork, Professor Owen and 
the Skull of the Black Monkey. He received tributaries seated 
before his table, where lay the compasses and callipers, the list of 
prices (fee 5s.) for disclosing to you the inner secrets of your 
soul, and the skeleton printed papers to be filled up with your 
passions, your sentiments, your perceptions, and your reflections. 

His dissection of the victim commenced even before the door 
was opened. Some knocked loudly and decidedly, others softly 
and with protest, as it were. These turned the handle without 
preliminary, those apologised for intruding ; one took off his hat 
when he oame in, another wore it, and wore it on the side of his 
head. In fact, everything was noted by that old man's wary 
eye, from the first knock to the final arrangements about the cost 
of the "character." The biceps were, of course, felt, measured, 
and made the subject of the usual commonplaces and 
generalities. But they were evidently the matter of the very 
least importance. 

I remember once saying to him, after witnessing two or three 
of these scenes, in which he who consulted the oracle divulged 
OA erything that he wished to learn : 

" Doctor, the man begins with the ends of his hair, and ends 
with the tips of his toes. Give me his boots, usual wear, and 
they will do my turn as well as the bumps do yours." 

The old man subtlly looked at me over the upper rim of his 
tortoiseshell spectacles, and replied, " My dear sir, every profession ' 
has its professionalises." 

And now to answer myself. In the assault we obey certain 
rules previously laid down, accepted, and learned by heart ; we 
do not attempt to touch the adversary, save under specified 
conditions. A mask covers the face, a plastron protects the chest. 

But the faults which we would avoid in the faUe d'armcs are 
useful in the field to intimidate the opponent's practice, and to 
cause hesitation in his movements. For fencing, no matter what 

138 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

the masters say, is perhaps the science in which certain 
irregularities may, at a given moment, be of the greatest advan- 
tage to those who commit them Otherwise, it would be a song 
to be committed to memory, more or Bess correctly, and he who 
knows it best would then have nothing to fear. If the maltre 
d'armes attempt anything like beginning at the beginning, in 
working up to a knowledge of passes and parries, he is simply 
wrong. He must foresee that the undeveloped intelligence before 
him will be troubled by the natural emotion of the combat, and 
the lesson must not add to that trouble. AM he teaches, in fact, 
should be clear, simple, and facile in comprehension as in action, 
taking its source in that instinct of defence which belongs to 
every nature. 

" You're evidently qualifying for a professorship, or for the 
House of Commons," said Seaton. I regret to own that the 
" Cigarettes " enjoyed the remark. 

It is a serious subject which must not be treated with lightness, 
I replied in my most dignified tones. 

There are certain principles of prudence and personal s-ecurity 
so invariable that to question them would be madness. They 
apply to one and all ; they are the natural base of every struggle 
between man and man. 

As soon as the seconds have given the word, the pupil must 
learn, by a sudden and rapid movement, to break backwards one 
or two measures, so as to guard himself against a possible sur- 
prise. And in the course of the combat he must break, in- 
cessantly break, but little by little, not covering too much 
ground, and no Mke one who fears, but like one who awaits. 

Never forget the sole formula which at such supreme moment 
is at the disposal of the man who cannot call in science to his 
aid, the rule upon which he should concentrate his attention- 
break and extend, which means defend yourself by threatening. 
There must have been something ludicr< us in the idea of threat 
and menace connected with the bright vision that had just 
appeared to us, for John Shughtie indulged in a low laugh. As 
I looked at him reprovingly he covered his recklessness by re- 
marking, " It's not so easy to threaten when one doesn't know 
how ! " 

Pardon me ; the very act of presenting the point suffices. He 
who sees it glittering even motionless before his eyes must feel 
its presence preoccupying his thoughts; he dwells upon it the 
more when he knows that the hand which guides it is without 
training, obeys no law, seeks no feint, but is over there like a 
watchful sentinel at his post. 

To explain myself more clearly I will say : tho retreat is 
your defence., tlio extension of the sword is your mode of offence 
the only mode permitted to those who have not studied in the 

The Ninth and Last Evemng. 139 

By retreating you maintain full or long measure between your- 
solf and your opponent, you prevent his easily mastering your 
blade by means of half attacks, and by remaining on guard you 
block up the way against surprises, against blind and furious 

This extension of the sword arm was the only tactic of M. 
Edmond About when he fought M. Herve and of the naturalised 
Parisian M. Rob. Mitchell when in 1874 he met his "brother" 
journalist, M. Aurelien Scholl. 

The only further movement which I would teach the neophyte 
is this : When breaking and extending, change line at times by 
passing underneath the opponent's sword, which is, in fact, only 
a simple disengagement. 

Nothing is easier to learn. The retrograde movement of the 
body facilitates the action. An hour's work, even for a man who 
has never handled a sword, will render familiar to him this 
change of line, which strengthens at* the same time the defence 
and the offence. 

And while making a neophyte repeat this simple exercise, I 
would also teach him to keep the sword point now at the height 
of the breast, then directed towards the flank that is to say, 
menacing the upper and the lower lines. 

Ho is thus, by means of an extension of the arm, an upward J 
and downward movement of the point, called in Italian a 
mezza-eavazione, and a disengagement absolutely nothing more 
able to threaten and control the only four lines known to the , 
attack and to the defence. 

There was a movement of impatience, especially amongst the 
pipes, as if the instruction appeared too elementary. 

Allow me to remark tihait I am simplifying my demonstration, 
perhaps to puerility. I am detailing and analysing each move- 
ment, and especially I am avoiding technical terms, for my 
lecture is mostly addressed to those whose lessons are still to 
come. On the other hand, even the practised swordsman will 
find some advantage in thus taking to pieces the mechanism of 
his art and in assigning to each item its relative value and 


" With permission of my future pupils," Seaton said, " I'd 
ask why you now avoid mentioning the lunge to the rear, 
se fendre en arri&re?" 

Simply because, according to me, this system, useful in excep- 
tional oases, may become very dangerous to one applying it by 
chance or at inopportune times. It would moat probably com- 
promise his defence amd throw him into the 'hands of the 

The tactic which I advocate that is to say, the site>p back- 
wards, the simultaneous extension of the arm, either in the 

140 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

same line or by disengagement, followed by recovering guard 
and shortening tihe arm is far preferable to this hazardous 
movement. Whether you win ox lose depends upon the skill 
and prudence of the adversary. But, at any rate, you axe 
always firm in the defence, solid upon your legs, and in perfect 
equilibrium, ready to repeat the eame movement whenever the 
opponent advances; and after wearying him out and inducing 
him to attempt some dangerous attack which thoroughly fails, 
this identical outstretching of the poimt will direct it to his arm, 
to his shoulder, or to his breast. 

Bint if you lunge backwards that is to say, retire the left 
foot eome 15in., whilst the right continues in position, and your 
body is thrown back what benefit do you expect? 

You are unskilful in arms. What secret instinct points out 
to you the very moment of action ? For after this movement 
you must recover yourself, and rapidly too ; you must return 
to guard without >a moment's, loss, and this will be found by no 
means easy. Meanwhile the opponent, taking advantage of 
your inexperience and the disunion which cannot but arise in 
the use of your limbs, presses you with vivacity, and perhaps 
secures your sword. 

You escape, we will suppose, this first danger; and take 
warning not to repeat it, however sorely you are tempted by 
the attacks and the half attacks of your adversary. You 
resolve to reserve the lunge backwards for an opportunity. 
But you cannot do this, especially upon the field, without 
judging when, it can be done safely, and judgment in arms 
implies knowledge. I am now concerned only with those who 
have neither one nor tihe other. 

Therefore I should strongly dissuade a man who is not in 
the habit of using the sword from attempting to lunge back- 
wards. It may be done by the trained hand, but 'he will use 
the movement sparingly, and rather as .a hors d'ceuvre than a 
piece de resistance. It is a reversal of the normal action, and 
consequently it is opposed to the first principles of fencing. 

I was most anxious during that last evening to make the 
lecture as light as possible, and to introduce a few brilliant 
flashes of wit and humour, as those of silence were rendered 
impossible by the condition of things. Probably the will to do 
blocked the way ; moreover, at this ninth seance no one seemed 
willingly to differ in opinion or even to interrupt me. I could 
only continue my subject doggedly, trusting to a contingency 
which alas ! never came. 

We have seen all that can be done for a man who knows 
nothing whatever of weapons, and whose only chance of safety, 
in presence of one who does know, consists in the extreme of 
simplicity. Let us now pase to the pupil who -has already a 
slight acquaintance with arms. This is a very different case ; 

The Ninth and Last Evening. 141 

the circle of the lesson greatly widens; he has learned some- 
thing of the language, aind we must show him how to make the 
best use of it. 

To such a fencer I would say : " Take the guard already 
advised, but play a little with the sword, changing freely from 
one line to the other, ranging inside and outwards, high and 
low, so as to discomfort the opponent. Offer now and then an 
attack in order to regain Lost ground, but never commit 
youreelf to a real offensive movement unless you are sure of 
success. It is throwing away the scabbard ; it is burning your 

I would add : " Sometimes, but always accompanying a half 
or a whole retreat, make a circle with the sword or a counter 
of tierce and carte simultaneously, so as to traverse all the 
lines; then again, "as you were," with the point threatening the 
adversary's face. If he attacks you freely, and in the higher 
direction, retire the left foot a little, without, however, attempt- 
ing the lunge backwards, and withdraw the face and the upper 
part of the body. The best way of recovering or returning to 
guard after this is to spring to the rear with both feet off the " 
ground before the opponent, if he has escaped your extensive 
movement, has time to push his advantage. 

"Pray explain one thing," Seaton objected. "A few ' 
evenings ago you told us that the principal rule, the fumda- j 
mental law of the sword, is to parry. Now you advise your 
pupils not to parry at all." 

You right, and I am not wrong. Remember, please, that 
we were then talking of fencing as the science, or rather as the 
study, of arms. Now, there is no question of the kind ; we are 
speaking of those who cannot pretend to any but very moderate 

Permit me a comparison. The " odious " practice often 
illustrates new things, paints them like a picture oculis subjecta 

Here is a man overboard. As usual with that provident 
being the British seaman, he is helpless in the sea; he cannot 
swim a stroke, arid he is bound for the bottom as fast as 
possible. Do you thus address him : " Man, inflate your lungs 
gradually and fully ; don't lose presence of mind ; strike the 
arms outwards, and immediately follow with the movement of 
the legs"? No! you do not. You cry out to him: "Catch 
hold of the rudder or the rope or the patent life-saving 
apparatus," and you trust that something of the kind may keep 
his head above water till he is picked up. 

This is exactly our position. The danger is imminent, and it 
is my duty .to save you by any means in my power. 

Certes, this man who in a few hours will be upon the field 
of figtht might learn from me a variety of new passes and 

142 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

parries, but they will hardly suffice him, except they be .those 
which I have said traverse and cover all the fouir lines. What 
would be the result of over-instruction ? 

The adversary would find it child's play to deceive this 
"newly acquired knowledge" ever alternating between the 
two extremes, soft, slow, and "dawdling," or rash, violent, and 
erratic, sweeping in huge circles round the sword instead of 
lightly contouring its* point. The neophyte's blade meeting 
nothing would beat the air, 'and, carrying with it -his wrist and 
forearm, leave the chest, in fact the whole trunk, completely 

Supposing also that the opponent has not made use of the 
disorder which he caused. The neophyte, seeing his own 
importance, would ask himself the means of avoiding a similar 
danger on a new attack. This hesitation is usually fatal. 
When a man hesitates about what he is to do or not to do his 
mind becomes troubled and excited ; he whips the wind with his 
blade as the drowning man beats the waves, and he ends either 
by exposing himself to the thrust which will end the combat or 
by throwing himself upon the adversary's sword at the risk of 
being run through the body. 

This is the reason why I should never attempt to teach any 
but an experienced man movements which he is incapable of 
executing correctly. Now analyse the process which I h>ave 
advised him to adopt. 

By "breaking," or retiring, he escapes the thrusts-one great 
point gained. To escape the point, either by withdrawing the 
body, by retiring en regie, or by a spring to the rear, is not 
parrying, 1 own, but it is the equivalent of the parry, since the 
sword does not reach you ; and even if it does the wound will 
be slight, for you have made the adversary lose by your retreat 
what he expected to gain by his attack. 

Furthermore, feeling that your poin<t is ever kept steadily 
opposite him, he does not venture to be impetuous and to 
assault you with all the freedom of which he is capable. If 
carried away by temper he does so at last ; you have at least 
the chance of touching him, involuntarily and accidentally, it 
is true, but probably that would be a matter of little importance 
to you. 

"I can't understand one thing," said Seaton " why that 
unhappy adversary doesn't master your sword, since you're 
offering it to him every moment." 

Doubtless that is what he ought to do, and what he will try 
to do. Can you suppose that the man who comes to a fencing 
master for advice about to-morrow's duel, owning his ignorance 
of his weapon, or that the pupil of a few weeks can be mad 
enough to expect the odds in his favour? This would be too 
convenient; this would make it more rational not to know the 
sword than to pass months and years -Ji studying: it Ignorance 

The Ninth and Last Evening. 143 

would, indeed, be able to boast at the expense of knowledge 
and experience. 

The man who has never been taught to handle, or who knows 
but little of the arm that must defend his life, can expect only 
to diminish the fatality of the chances opposed to him. The 
part of the master is limited to inculcating self-confidence, and 
to teaching the only path, prudent and defensive, upon which 
it is comparatively safe to walk. 

By following these counsels, I repeat, the young fencer, even 
when over-weighted, will create serious difficulties for hJ 
adversary ; will compel him to act with reserve, keep him out 
of measure, and oblige him to advance when attacking. You 
know the danger of the latter sttep, which may be further 
increased by neglect or loss of temper. But I am far from 
believing that the sang-froid, the science, and the experience 
of a complete swordsman cannot avoid the pit-traps placed in 
his way by ignorance and inexperience. 

As regards mastering the sword, I have already said that the ' 
sole hope of safety is to keep the point in perpetual motion, 
and, whenever the attack is prepared, to meet it, so that the 
forte, and not the feeble half of the blade, is liabJe to be 
engaged. This, in fact, must conclude tihat moonenitous pre- 
liminary lesson or lessons. 

And when all is said we can only resume our advice as 
follows: "Be prudent, be calm, be resolute, and Allah 
Karim ! " 


"I have hea,rd some men assert," said Lord B., " that the 
best thing for a poor fencer to do is to attack his antagonist 
the moment both are on guard. What do you think of it? " 

I think it by far the best way of risking to be run through 
the body. Why suppose your opponent, who, like yourself, has 
been warned by the seconds, is unprepared to receive you, or 
likely to let himself be surprised ? Either the man who stands 
before you is cunning of ferce (and then he will hardly want 
your assistance in view of all contingencies), or he is skill -less 
as youirself, in which case the chances a,re equal. If, therefore, 
reasoning and forethought advise such an attack both are in 
error. If it ia the result of an impatient, feverish, passionate 
organisation, which cannot wait with calmness or stand quietly 
upon the defensive this is quite another thing. 

To the man of sanguine temperament and violent temper, 
constitutionally unable to act with coolness and prudence, I 
would say: "Follow your instincts; obey the impulse of your 
nature. It will certainly expose you to much greater danger, 
because your attack, your rush, your onslaught, will be hap- 
hazard, without calculation, and without the counsels of 
experience. Its sole chance of success, even in your own eyes, 

144 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

will consist in its dash, its suddenness, and its thoughtless 
impetuosity, which may astound the adversary and induce him 
to parry wildly with sword and arm. Only, before making 
your swoop, at least try to engage his sword by any means in 
your power, or to deflect it by a violent battement, for instance, 
ijp or down, inside or outside. In this way you provide 
against thrust for thrust and extension of the sword, and 
nothing remains, alter feeling the opponent's blade, but to 
spring forward in right line without a moment's hesitation. 

" Certes, even this simplest of movements is much easier to 
speak of than to execute." 

It is possible that you may succeed. Chance and a man's 
stair play such a capital part in the drama of life. But if you 
fail, the blade which touches you will inevitably bury itself up 
to the hilt, and this last consideration may, methinks, suggest 
a little reflection throw some cold water upon your fire. 

Therefore I should never suggest this line oi action ; the 
perils are too serious and imminent to foe incurred willingly. 
It is permissible only in the case of a man who knows nothing 
about the sword, but who uses his weapon with that energy 
and resolution which strong and fearless nations derive from 
the very imminence of the danger which assails them. 


The second hypothesis, in which both combatants are 
equally "profane" in the Italian, not the Ay-merican sense 
need hardly be considered; there is little to say about it 
which has not been said concerning the artless opposed to the 
artful* fencer. It will be enough to remark that one or both must 
expect to suffer, perhaps to cnfcrrer each other fatally. Con- 
cerning the third, which supposes both combatants to have a 
modicum of skill, or to be equal in swordsmanship, a few words 
will suffice. 

This is no longer a case in which ignorance and experience 
seek in extreme meastures a chance of safety. The struggle is 
now more or less equal, for, I repeat it, the sharpened blade, 
which brings out differences of organisation, often levels distinc- 
tions of skill. The first thing to be borne in mind is the well- 
known saying that in the affairs of this world man is saved 
not ( by faith, but by want of faith. Distrust and suspect your 
adversary^such is your beet guard. 

I need not recall to your minds for the advice has often been 
given during the last few evenings the necessity O'f providing 
against surprise, which can be done effectively only by 
standing out of measure until you see the moment for advancing 
within distance. 

If your adversary offers to shorten the space which separates 
you he must advance and place himself at a disadvantage. He 
may uncover himself to your profit; at any rate, you watch 

The Ninth and Last Evening. 145 

him, you harass him, and your sword point ever presented 
(straight at his face, breast, or flank, always threatening one of 
the four lines, renders his action tardy and uncertain. He 
must, by 'the very conditions of the case, forewarn you of his 
attack, and forewarned is, under these circumstances, fore- 
armed. You cannot be surprised, and you will come to the 
paitry more easily and more effectually. The advance and the 
action of the hand and arm which accompany it have already 
revealed to you what is the amount of the science which you 
have to encounter. 

But if your opponent remain obstinately upon the purely 
defensive, showing you that he intends to await the attack, you 
feel that something must be done. Gain ground by half 
measures, masking the intention as much as you can with the 
body easily seated and every movement in equilibrium, so as to 
spring back if required with all your activity. 

In order to diminish the danger, ever imminent, of gaining 
ground, embarrass the opponent, and preoccupy his thoughts by 
frequent menaces, which he may mistake for the forerunners of 
attacks. Thus you force him to guard himself, you prevent his 
taking the offensive, and you are able to shorten distance 
insensibly, without unnecessary exposure. 

At times feint as though you intended to thrust home, in order 
to let him explain himself and divulge to you his play. Thus 
you will learn whether he intends to retreat, to parry, or to 
extend the sword. A man under such circumstances must be 
perfectly sure and master of himself not to betray his "little 
game " by instinctive and involuntary movements. This word 
of advice applies generally to the weak as to the strong, to 
the skilful and to the unskilled. 

You have banished from your minds the phantom called and 
miscalled bottes secretes. As regards refusing the sword, a few 
last words may be added. 

There are many ways of counteracting this absence of the 
weapon, but all are difficult, and each demands skill and 
practice. Most often the adversary, disquieted by a movement to 
which he is unaccustomed, and vainly seeking for a pointe 
mappui, hesitates, and thus loses all his rapidity of execution. 

If his play is complicated you extend the sword, retiring a 
half measure, and fatiguing, tormenting, and enervating the 
hand opposed to you. 

If his movements are simple, the opponent will dread risking 
blow for blow. The more skilful he is the greater will be, or at 
least should be, luis prudence. And, as I said when prescribing 
for the assault, you can always lessen the danger of a free attack 
by a sharp retreat, either of full or of half measure. Thus you 
render the parry easier, you increase the distance, and you 
oppose, by a double precaution, the rapidity of the adversary's 


146 The Sentiment of the Sword. 

You may be touched, but it will be lightly ; at any rate, far 
more lightly than you would have been by parrying with firm 
fcot. You may succeed, on the other hand, in the parry ; you 
have thus saved yourself from the corps a corps, and the escape 
will give more security to your ripost. 

Let us now assume the contrary hypothesis. 

You attack, either because you rely more upon the agility of 
your hand than upon the certainty of your reply, or because the 
adversary, persisting in his defence, constrains you to take 1 he- 
initiative. Here, then, prudence is your only safety. 

The first and last rule must be never to venture upon offence 
without having succeeded in mastering the weak part of the 
sword opposed to you. 

Above all things, no feints ; I have told you their dangers. This 
is the essential difference between the assault in play and the 
assault in earnest, the foil that "buttons," and the point that 

Allow yourself only the most simple passes, preceded by con- 
trolling the enemy's blade, either with mere pressure or with an 
engagement, or with a battemcnt, whose strength must depend 
upon the amount of deviation required. This process will be 
greatly facilitated if the adversary gives you the sword. 

If, on the contrary, he persistently refuses it, your only plan 
is to master the difficulty by agility and address, fairly compelling 
him to change tactics. Finish your attack when this takes place, 
or when the adversary, still anxious to avoid the engagement of 
weapons, exaggerates his precaution, arid leaves himself exposed. 
In the latter case, simplL- straight thrusts almost always succeed.! 

Such is the general advice to which I would draw the swords- 
man's attention. At the decisive moment of a rencontre the ' 
thoughts should dwell only upon the salient points requiring 
attention, and these may be resumed in the words self-confidence, 
energy, and prudence 

"Well," said Charles, "I suppose you're right; but how about 
remembering it all?" 

Remember only half, I replied, and you will do well. There 
are so many who remember nothing, who think of nothing. 


My lady, my lord, and gentlemen, I resumed in the official 
lecturing style : You have mastered "The Sentiment of the 
Sword." Allow me to thank you once more, with grateful heart, 
for the exemplary patience and long sufl'oritig which you have 
brought to this st'niirr and to those of I lie last week. 


Noon, on the day after the lasti evening, saw ihe period of a 
visit, which will remain indelibly fixed upon my memory. 

Castle .... was in those days (186*) separated lioin its 

The Ninth and Last Evening. \q-i 

railway station by a drive of twelve miles, and the "Highflyer," 
a model specimen of the old English stage coach, drawn by a 
rattling team of dark bays, and tooled by a burly son of 
"Black Sam," used to draw up at the gate, the guard 
announcing his approval by too-tooing lustilly upon his " yard o' 

John Shughtie and I, after heartrending adieus and au revoirs, 
which seemed only to amuse Seaton, the mauvais plaisani, 
climbed up to our places outside. As he was known to be setting 
out upon one of his most perilous explorations, all the household 
collected upon the lawn to give him God-speed, and, whilst the 
windows showed a host of peeping faces, the juniors added a 
hearty British hurrah ! not the degenerate "hooray." Cambric 
was also made ready to flutter gaily like wisps of morning mist in 
the fragrant breath of the clear blue sky. 

***** * 

The castle disappeared from view, then the grounds, then the 
porter's lodge. Presently came the cross-country road, wild and 
bare, the pretty bit of common dotted with firs and maples, am) 
perspectives of ruddy autumnal glades, and yellow hills and 
dales, and straw-coloured plains, and the first glad glimpse of the 
pale green Ertglish sea. And so the dream dissolved into an airy 
nothing, leaving to me only the perfume of a Russian 
cigarette and the vision of a fair phantom extending a ghostly 



Abbeville, 43 

About, Edmond, 139 

Abyssinia, 4 

Academic de VEpee, 22 (n), 71 

Acbille Marozzo, 19, 20, 25, 27, 

52, 104 
^Eneid, 126 
Afghan charaz 2 
Afghanistan, 99, 118 
Africa, 6, 87 

Agrijpa, Camillo, 20 and note 
Alexander, 5, 105 
Algerian Dagger, 2 

Amazons, 95 
America, 5, 15 
Andrea Ferrara, 20 
Angelo, 1'2, 17, 21 (n), 30 (n) 
Angl ^-Scandinavian, 17 

Celt, 17 

Arab, 5, 23, 62, 73, 99 
Aiabic, 8, 67,59 
Arbeau, Thointt, 13 (n) . 
Argante, 28 
Aiiosto, 2, 27 
Aristotle, 62 
Ashantee, 94 
As'a, 6,^134 
Australia, 5 
Austria, 115 


Bacon, 19 

Badmiot n Fencing, 41 (n), 12 (n ) 

Baluch, 99 

Bayonet, 1,3, 19,99, 108 

Bayoune, 19 

Bazancouit, 1, 34 (n), 62 (n), 

66 (n), 09 (n), 118 (n) 
Bellovesus, 5 
Beuthaii], "> I 
Birmingham. L'6 
Bismarck, !M 
Bois de Boulogne, "> I 
Vincennea, 31 

Bolan Pass, 99 
Bologni, 19 
Bosco, General, 22 
Boulogne, 1, 84 
Brazil, 60 
Brennus, 5 

Brosamer, Hans, 21 (n) 
Bruce, 104, 106 
Buenos Ayres, 25 
Buffon, 61 and note 
Burton, Lady, 1 

Death, p. 1 
Book of Sword, 1 
Life of, I, 4 (n), 14 (n) 
Bayonet Exercise, 1, 99 
Modern Armour, 94 


Caesar, 5, 105 

Cairo, !W 

Cambray, Archbishop of, 130 

Canada, 6 

Cardigan, Lord, 12 

Carracci, 25 

Carran/a, 22 (n) 

Carusa, Princ, di, 77 

Castle, E., Schools and Masters 

of Fence, 21 (n) 
Cervantes, 19 
Chalmers, Dr., 35 
Chapman, Capt. G., 36 (n) 
Charaz, Afghan, 2 
Charlema.gne, Prof., 63 and not 
Charles IX., 20 (n) 
Chataigneraie, 103 
Cha'eauvillard, Comte de, 121 
Chinese, 113, 115 
Christian IV.. 20 (n) 
Cipriani, Cav, A., 77 
Clay, C. F., Dedication, 2, 36 (n), 
14 (n). W (a), 62 (n), 66 (n), 

118 (n) 

Constantin, Prof., 8 1 
Cordelois, 7 
Cribb, Tom, 112 
Crimea, 106, 116 

Index to Proper Names. 



Dagger, Algerian, 2, 22 

Dahomi, 95 

Dante, 23 

De Candolle, 69 

De initions of fencing tirms, 10, 


Desl;arolles, M., 02 
Deux Epees Brisees, 35 (n) 
Domtnichim, 25 
Don Luis, 22 (n) 
Dowie, 93 
Diaper's History of Civilisation, 


Due (TAumale, 3 
Durer, Albert, 21 (n) 


Egerton Castle, 21 (u) 

Egyptians, 113, 134 

d'Ennecy, 31 

Encyclopedic, 92 

Escrime Frarn-aise, 34 (n), 63 (n) 

Goa, 16 

Goddart, 12 

Gomard's Theorie de VEscrime, 

17 and note 

Grandeffe, A. de, 35 (n) 
Grasd, G. di, 20 and note 
Greeks, 2, 25, 101, 113, 134 
Grisetti, P., 28, 121 
Grisier, Les Armes el le Duel, 1" 

and note 
Gua da loupe, 12 


Hamilton, La Belle, 134 

Hannibal, 5 

Heidelberg, 75 

Henri II., 104 

Hergsell, G., 21 (u) 

Herve, M., 139 

Hindu, 60, 85, 113, 134 

Hispauo-Italian School, 22, 101 

Homer, 27 

Hume, 34 

Hundt, Michael, 21 and not? 

Hungarian, 8 


Fabris, ^alvator, 20 and note 

Fairfax, 29 (n) 

Fenelou, 130 

Ferrara, Andrea, 20 

Figg, 105 

Flissa, Kabyle, 2 

Florence, 24, 136 

Florio, Blasco, 26 

Florio's Montaigne, 30 (n) 

Foil Practice, Chapman's, 36 

Fontenelle, 130 

Franco- Prussian War, HI 


Italian School, 3, 9, 21, '22 and 

note, 23, 26, 69, 121, 122 
India, Upper, 13 

, 18, 54 

I mlia House, "> I 


Japanese, 52, 56, 115 
Jarnac, Coup de, 103, 104 
Jonson, Ben, 22 (n) 
Judicium Dei, 113, 117 


Galileo, 77 

Gall, 136, 137 

Galla, tribe, 4 

Galvani, 25 

Galway, 137 

Genoa, 24 

Geometrical School- 22 (n) 

Germans, 70, 115 

(ii'nixtili'iHine Lilt., 28 

Ghika, 124 

pianfaldoni) Giuseppi, 12 

GiKanti, Nie., 20 and note 

Gil Bias, 88 

Oiuoco misto, 24, 25 (n) : 57 


Kabyle flissa, 2 
Katir, 114 
Kawasim, 99 
Kirchoffer, 25 
Koran, 114 
Kris, Malay, 2 

Laboe'ssiere ptre, 7 (n), 9, 12 (n), 

17 and note, 58, 93, 121 
Laboessiere fils, 93 
Lafaugere, 8 
Lambertini, 25, 26 
Lamoriciere, Gen., 3 


The Sentiment of the Sword. 

Laplace, 112 

Lebkommer, Hans ( Leckiichner, 

21 (n) 

Leghorn, 12, 13 
Legouve, 35 (n) 
Leigh Hunt, 6 (n) 
Lever, 104 
Lhomandie, 7 (n) 
Liancourt, W. do, Le Maistre 

d'Armes, 20 and note 
Linnaeus, 69 
Lisbon, 16 
Lo :ke, 33 and note 
Lodi, 105 
Loyola, 19 
Luther, 19 


Mackren, 121 

Malakoff, 116 

Malay kris, 2, 60 

Manchester, 26, 114, 116 

Manchette, I 

Maudiicardo, 27 

Manege. 8 (n) 

Manse, G. B., 28 

Marchionni, Alberto, Trattato di 

Scherma, 17 and note, 24 
Maria, Donna, 16 
Marozzo, Achille, 19 (n), 20, 25, 

27, 52, 104 

Marryat, Captain, 101 
Mentone, 34 (n) 
Meyer, Joachim, 21 (u) 
Mezzofanti, 25 
Michael Ang^lo, 19, 137 
Mill, J. S., 34 
Milton, 27 

Mimiague, Salle, 34 (n) 
Mini^, 94 

Mitchell, Rob., 139 
Mohrck, 113 
Moliere, 23 

Montaigne, 19, 30 and note 
Montesquieu, 30 
Montmorency, Cte. de, 104 
Morocco, 87 
Morsitato, 92 
Moslem, 114 
Murat, 23 


Napoleon I., 5, 32, 105, 114 
III. ,11, 34 (n) 

Niirvae/, 22 (n) 

Neapolitans, 20, 22, 23, 26, '27, 
57, 96, 102, 107 

New York, 25 

Nile Valley, 14 
Norman-Scandinavian, 134 
Novum Organum, 62 


Orchesographie, 13 (11) 
Orotava, 15 

O' Trigger, Sir Lucius, 131 
Oxford, 64, 121 


Pache_:o de Narvaez, 22 (11) 
Paradise Lost, 23 
Paurnfeindt, A., 21 (n) 
Fertile, 20 (n) 
Persians, 8, 62, 113 
Pini, 25 
Pitt, 114 
Plastron, 18, 64 
Pons(Span.), 19 
Pons, Prof. C., 34 and note 

, Armaud, 35 (n) 

Porte St. Martin, 31 
Possellier's Theorie de I' Escrime 

17 and note 
Provost, Camille, 9 (n) 
Punch, 14, 49, 92 (u) 

Raphael, 131 

Rarey, 92 and note 

Redan, 11(5 

Renan, 17 

Riceoni, Maestro, 92 

Rochester, Earl of, 106 

Romans, 2, 113, 134 

Romantic School, 89 

Rosaroll, Baron, 28 and note, 12 

Rouleau, Prof., 34 (n) 

, Adolphe, 34 (n) 

, Georges, 34 (n) 

Ruggiero, 27 
Russia, 5, 115 


Sainet-Didier, H. de, 20 and nob 
Saint-Georges, 12 and note, 93 
Sulvator Fabris, 20 and note 
Sampieri, 24 
Sandow, 30 (n) 
Sanscrit, 8 
Scholl, Aurelien, 139 
Scott, Walter, 20 
Secrets de I'Epee (see Bazanooffl 
and Clay) 

Index to Proper Names. 


Seward, Mr, 17 

Seymour, Lord H., 12 

Shakspeare, 19 

Shepherd (of Cairo), 93 

Shetlands, 15 

Sicilian School, 26, 27 

Siena, 92 

Sikh, 13 

Soutza, Prince, 124 

Slav, 8 

Smith, Adam, 34 

Spain, 22 

Spanish School, 21, 22, 26 and 


' Spurzheim, 136 
Steppes, Bus nan, 5, 101 
Suez Canal, 116 
Sword, Book of the, 1 
Sword Club, 25 (n) 
Sykes, Col., 34 
Syrian, 134 


Tabourot, 13 (n) 

Talhoffer's Fechtbuch, 21 (n) 

Tancrede, 27, 28 

Tasso, 27, 28, 29, 121 

Teneriffe, 15 

Thibaust, G., 22 (n), 71, 72, 87 

Thimm's Bibliog, 26 (u) 

Thoinot Arbeau, 13 (n) 

Titian, 135 

Toledo, 24, 92 

Tours, 25 

Townsend, F. H., 2 
Trattato di Scherma, 24 

di Scientia d'Arme, 

20 and note 
Trieste, 38 

Tracker Campaign, 99 
Turkey, 132, 134 


United States, 17, 124, 136 


Vape^-eau, 61 (u) 
Villardita, Gius., 27 
Virgil, 27, 126 


Waterford, Lord, 12 
Wellington, 94, 105 
Wieu, 21 (n) 


Xiphonomie, 7 (n) 


Yataghan, Turkish, 2 
Yownsmi, 99 

Zanzibar, 87 
Zeitz, 21 


Salle d' Armes 


The Largest Fencing Room in London. 


For terms apply io 

Monsieur T ASS ART, at the above address (late 


School, Paris)* English and French spoken. 

The School is fitted with special baths, shower baths 
(hot and cold), spacious dressing rooms for ladies and 
gentlemen, and all appointments essential to comfort. 

Fencing Academy 



Private Lessons and Classes for Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Telephone: Central 6439. Established 1853. 

Terms on Application. 

* H", e.